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Internet Society Expresses Concern over Impact of Intellectual Property Rights Provisions in Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) Draft

18 November 2013

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The Internet Society is concerned that the global Internet may be harmed if countries adopt Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) provisions contained in the recently leaked Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) draft.  We do not believe that these provisions are consistent with basic principles of transparency, due process, accountability, proportionality and the rule of law.

The leaked TPP Agreement is a complex set of rights and principles related to IPR and we believe that the current draft reflects a disproportionate balance of rights in favor of intellectual property owners.  In addition to other issues, these provisions could also have important consequences for online privacy, a critical dimension in light of heightened awareness worldwide about the importance of protecting the privacy and security of end-users.  

In particular, with respect to intermediary liability, some of the articles appear to assign new levels of responsibility to private entities and create an environment where content will be subject to extensive filtering.  Some draft provisions would impose an unparalleled set of conditions on intermediaries that would allow them to escape liability and could ultimately lead to content blocking and affect legitimate speech and online expression.

Such measures are neither new nor original; they have appeared in similar forms in other national or international contexts. On the whole, these measures have proven to be inefficient or unworkable. They have failed to adequately address the stated problems or to provide sufficient answers to the existing challenges.

The Internet Society has advocated for intellectual property discussions to adhere to minimum standards of process and substance. In June 2013, we released a paper in which we called on the international community to apply standards such as transparency, due process, accountability and compliance to the rule of law to all intellectual property discussions that relate to the Internet. Similarly, we have been vocal in advancing these principles in various fora, including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).

We also joined other organizations1 in a statement made in 2012, urging the negotiators of the TPP “to make [the] process more transparent and inclusive, following the multistakeholder model, at least for those chapters of the agreement pertaining to the Internet.”

Throughout this process, the Internet Society has taken the position of not commenting on substantive issues based on leaked texts. At the time, we understood that the leaked texts provided only a snapshot of the issues while many provisions were omitted.

The most recent leak, released by Wikileaks, appears to be the complete draft of the TPP’s Intellectual Property chapter and has made us reconsider our position.

That we feel compelled to comment on leaked versions of the TPP demonstrates that these basic process standards have been ignored.  In an era where the global economy depends on information and networks, we believe that discussions that affect the Internet and its users should reflect these basic principles of transparency and openness.

Once again, the Internet Society calls upon the TPP negotiators to abide by standards of transparency as they complete this critical international agreement that will impact Internet users worldwide. We also urge the negotiating parties to reconsider the TPP’s intellectual property provisions and to ensure they don’t have a negative impact on innovation, creativity, prosperity and market participation.

1 The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), InternetNZ, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), Open Media, Global Voices Advocacy and the International Federation of Libraries and Archives (IFLA)