A leaked chapter of the final Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement proposes several changes to the copyright laws of participating countries. The intellectual property chapter covers a broad range of issues including extended copyright terms, ISP liability and criminalization of non-commercial piracy.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a multinational trade agreement aimed at strengthening economic ties between the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and eight other countries.
Earlier this week the participating countries agreed on the final text, and a few days later Wikileaks published a leaked copy of the intellectual property chapter, which has yet to be officially revealed.
The final version removes the uncertainties that were present in previous drafts and raises serious concerns among many copyright experts and activists.
If the agreement is ratified the copyright term will be set to the life of the author plus 70 years. This is already the case in the United States, but Canada will have to extend the current term by 20 years.
This is a step backward according to Canadian law professor Michael Geist, who says that the change might cost the Canadian public more than $100 million per year.
“Hundreds of well known Canadian authors and composers who died years ago will not have their work enter the public domain for decades,” Geist notes.
The TPP chapter also outlines how Internet services should deal with copyright infringement. It includes an ISP liability section which mimics the DMCA, but it leaves room for the Canadian notice-and-notice scheme to stay intact.
A more vague provision suggests that countries should encourage ISPs (including search engines and hosting services) to remove or disable content, if a court deems it to be copyright infringing. This means that foreign court orders could be applied to block content in other countries.
The above is worrisome, but the actual text specifies that countries should “induce” ISPs, not force them.
In a similar vein, the agreement specifies that countries should offer ISPs “legal incentives” to “cooperate with copyright owners to deter the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials…”
Again, this doesn’t mean that all ISPs have to monitor for copyright infringements, but it will ‘reward’ those who do.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who released a detailed analysis, this effectively means that ISPs “are roped in as copyright enforcers.”
Another point of interest are the criminal sanctions for non-commercial copyright infringement TPP proposes, which currently don’t exist in many countries. This means that people may face jail time for copyright infringements without financial gain, as long as those infringements significantly impact copyright holders.
Finally, if TPP is ratified the circumvention of DRM will be banned as well. In addition, manufacturers will not be allowed to sell circumvention tools such as DVD or Blu-Ray rippers.
This means that Canada’s proposal to classify DRM-circumvention as fair use has failed, although the TPP allows countries to pass exceptions to allow non-infringing DRM circumvention.
While the TPP won’t end file-sharing or kill the Internet, as some suggest, it certainly puts the interests of large multinationals before those of the average citizen. As such, we can expect plenty of opposition leading up to the final votes.