Trans Pacific Partnership: Why It Matters In The USA

Mitch Stoltz | Electronic Frontier Foundation | December 4, 2012

The U.S. and other governments are meeting yet again to hash out the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), this time in New Zealand. International trade agreements may seem far removed from our daily lives. Why should people in the U.S. take action against TPP?

Although we don't know what's in the draft treaty, and the U.S. Trade Representative refuses to publish it, the leaked drafts we've seen are alarming. TPP is likely to export some of the worst features of U.S. copyright law: a broad ban on breaking digital locks on creative work, even for legal uses, a copyright term of life plus seventy years (the current international norm is life-plus-fifty), ruinous statutory damages with no proof of actual harm, and government seizures of computers and equipment involved in alleged infringement.

OK, says Joe American, but all of these things are already in U.S. law. That's why trade negotiators are saying they don't need the Senate's approval to pass TPP. Why should we care?

Three reasons. International copyright agreements like TPP hurt U.S. businesses abroad, create pressure for more expansion of U.S. copyright law, and stand in the way of badly needed reforms to U.S. law. And it all happens through closed-door negotiations that even our elected representatives can't watch, let alone the public...