Photo courtesy of DFATD | MAECD / Flickr
By Kevin Matyi
On Oct. 5, 2015, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, was finalized after years of negotiations between 12 countries on the Pacific Rim.
According to the New York Times, it is “the largest regional trade accord in history,” gathering 40 percent of the total global economy in to one partnership.
The TPP has not been fully passed into law yet, as in the US it needs to be approved by Congress, and presumably the same holds true for the other countries’ respective legislative bodies.
According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the TPP would change international law between the companies in the partnership.
This would have several effects on the US. First, it would make “Made-in-America” products easier to sell abroad by eliminating taxes and other trade barriers. This would also allow “more high-paying American jobs at home.”
Zhi Chen, a student at Stony Brook University, mentioned at least one way that the TPP could cause more “Made-in-America” products. By giving tax breaks to American companies which allow some of the parts in their products to be made in China, but have the finished product assembled in the US, the products could remain “Made-in-America,” despite having parts made in China.
The TPP would also stop other competitors from setting rules in Asian economies, which would otherwise “undermine U.S. leadership in Asia,” according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
Finally, by increasing global trade in ways which benefit the US, it would “allow our workers to effectively compete in the modern economy.”
Based on the Trade Representative’s website, the partnership sounds like an amazing boon for the economy, which it may very well be. Unfortunately, there are two problems with the deal.
First and most glaringly, that is all anyone officially knows about the deal. It was written in secret, without anyone except those involved able to see the contents.
The lack of transparency is worrying, since it implies that the public might not like something about the deal enough to want it renegotiated.
That is where the second problem starts. Information about the TPP was leaked online. This caused a controversy that spread across the internet about how the TPP would tighten intellectual property, or IP, laws, and will generally make the internet a much less free medium.
As Bryan Hauser, a 20-year-old Computer Science major from Merrick said, “They are arguing about issues with everyday internet users accessing content, even if it is by accident and violating international law.”
Even simply searching on Google for “Trans-Pacific Partnership” now loudly announces both the secrecy and freedom problems.
The text before the first search result, an excerpt from an Electronic Frontier Foundation article on the TPP, says, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a secretive, multinational trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) law across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement.”
The website, Don’t Hate The Geek, quoted part of the Copyright section of the TPP, saying, “any reproduction, remastering, modification, alteration, reselling, and/or manipulation of an original copyrighted item will not be infringed on, or will be punishable by jail time, and/or a fine of up to a $100,000 and/or by sued by the copyright holder.”
The author of the article, Jesse L, said that they spoke to a lawyer to ensure that they knew what the document was saying.
“The lawyer basically stated if you cosplay, make fan art, fan story’s, doujins, or make props from any show or movie you are infringing on this new copyright law and could be arrested, fined, and sued.”
Additionally, content creators on YouTube, or any other platform, would be in trouble. GaijinGoomba of the Game Theorists said on Twitter, “If the #TPP Trans-Pacific Partnership passes, Allochi, Aki, me, ALL of us could be sued or put in jail for use of our characters.”
Leo Bonfante, a 21-year-old Bio-Anthropology major from Satan Island, summed up his feelings about the TPP by saying, “for literally anyone who isn’t at a high level at a corporation, it kind of sucks! And I say this as someone who wants to one day be at the head of a big corporation.”
However, the problems got worse with an update on Oct. 9 from Electronic Frontier Foundation. In what is believed to be the current and essentially final version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), they found something new to worry about.
If anyone tinkers with a file or device containing copyrighted work, they can be found criminally libel, even if they did not commit any copyright infringement.
This law extends so far that if someone decided to crop out a watermark on a photo, attributed the photo to the original artist in some other way and then used it under the protection of Fair Use (at least in the US), they would still be breaking the law.
The latest version of the leaked documents have also kept the Trade Secrets section the same, which is terrible news for journalists and whistle blowers.
Anyone who gains “unauthorized, willful access to a trade secret held in a computer system” is breaking the law. As the Foundation article points out, there is no exception made for this, even when the secrets are shared for the purpose of public interest.
The website stopthetrap.net gave a brief overview of how the TPP could affect the internet, such as “criminalize some of your everyday use of the internet,” “force service providers to collect and hand over your private data” and “give media conglomerates more power to fine your internet use,” among several other points.
The New York Times said that whenever President Obama officially said that he intends to sign the accord, Congress will have 90 days to initially deliberate on whether or not to pass it, and will likely need an extension.
However, the deal is far from certain to pass. Politicians on both sides of the isle have voiced concerns with the deal already.
Donald Trump said that “We will either renegotiate it, or we will break it,” and that the TPP was “a disaster,” according to The Big Story.
Meanwhile, Martin O’Malley, one of the Democratic presidential candidates, said “I’m for trade, and I’m for good trade deals. But I’m against bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” according to the Atlantic.
One of the problems that most people seem to agree on is that the documents should not be secret. The public should be allowed to see the contents of the TPP before Congress votes on it so that the average person can voice their opinion to their local Congressmen.
As for whether the TPP should be passed or not, it is a matter of individual freedom versus a strengthened global economy.
If you think that the countries of the Pacific Rim should be partnered together in order to strengthen each others’ economies, then mention that to your Congressman. Given how much backlash the TPP has caused on the Internet, giving the deal your support may help the people representing the you to form a more well-rounded idea about the opinion of the general public.
If you fall somewhere in the middle, or have a different idea altogether, the contact your Congressman. Again, it helps to give them a good idea of what the public is thinking, and if your idea is unique or has a good compromise of the two extremes, then it might give them something to work with in order to make a compromise when debating and eventually voting on the TPP.