posted by Keito
EFF: The Secrecy Must Be Stopped... Congress Members Probe USTR on the Confidential TPP Negotiations
posted by Keito
2012-09-28 10:39:15'The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) threatens to regulate and restrict the Internet in the name of enforcing intellectual property (IP) rights around the world, yet the public and civil society continue to be denied meaningful access to the official text and are even kept in the dark about what proposals countries are pushing in this powerful multilateral trade agreement. With users having sent over 80,000 messages to Congress asking them to demand transparency in the TPP using EFF's Action Center, Congress members have been urged into action to uncover the secrecy.
On September 20th, Representative Zoe Lofgren sent an additional follow-up letter to USTR, which EFF applauds. According to the letter, Rep. Lofgren, who has long been a strong advocate for digital rights and was a vocal opponent of SOPA, met with Ambassador Ron Kirk directly to discuss the TPP and her concerns over the lack of transparency in the process. The letter, which mentions that Ambassador Kirk told her he welcomed feedback on how to address the concerns, asks USTR to: balance TPP IP enforcement provisions with user privileges; diversify the policy perspectives on their Industry Trade Advisory Committee for IP; and be more transparent in its TPP negotiations overall.
Rep. Lofgren stated in her press release for the letter:
“TPP's IP provisions must not undermine the free expression of Internet users, the ability to share and create content online, the free and open character of the Internet, or the freedom of digital service providers to innovate. Lack of transparency and overbroad IP enforcement requirements have held back other international trade agreements in the recent past – these same issues are now undermining the results [USTR seeks] to achieve with TPP."
They have yet to hear back with a response from the USTR.
This is not Congress' first attempt to unveil TPP. As we have reported, Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Darrell Issa are currently working on gathering signatures from their colleagues in Congress to ask the US Trade Representative Ron Kirk to reveal what they are seeking in the TPP's IP chapter, specifically in relation to provisions that would impact the Internet and access to pharmaceutical drugs. And in June of this year, 130 Members of the House of Representatives sent a detailed letter to the USTR asserting Congress' required role in the trade negotiations, making specific requests as to how they could make the process democratic and transparent while emphasizing the ways in which it fails to be neither of those things. Two months later, the USTR responded [PDF] in a letter that did not address any of the specific issues raised by Congress members.
The USTR claims that at the outset of the TPP negotiations in 2009, the participating countries signed a confidentiality agreement. In the June letter from 130 US Representatives, they explicitly asked for "a copy of the confidentiality agreement and an explanation as to what role USTR or other governments played in crafting it." In the USTR's response letter they completely ignored this request.
However, the model confidentiality agreement that served as a base for the TPP negotiators is a public document, available at a page on the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website. The model agreement lays out the rules of confidentiality for signatory countries over TPP draft texts, proposals, communications, and other documents relating to the negotiations over the agreement. It is not clear, however, whether the model mirrors the exact agreement USTR signed, and USTR is likely subject to internal confidentiality policies in addition to the agreement.
While the confidentiality “model letter" itself is extremely vague, it does contain some interesting parts:
It states that the negotiating texts, government proposals, emails, and other related documents can be "provided" to government officials.
It states that documents can be accessed by "persons outside government who participate in that government's domestic consultation process and who have a need to review or be advised of the information in these documents."
It holds that "all participants plan to hold these documents in confidence for four years after entry into force of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, or if no agreement enters into force, for four years after the last round of negotiations."
It lays out the level of security needed to protect the confidentiality of the agreement, including that it may be kept in a "locked filing cabinet" or within a "secured building". Amusingly, the letter also assures that the documents "do not need to be stored in safes."
If in fact this letter parallels the provisions in the confidentiality agreement, these terms may be flexible enough to allow all government officials to have regular, easy access to the text. As of now however, elected members have not had access to view or comment on the text. Senator Wyden is a member of the Senate Finance Committee (which has jurisdiction over "reciprocal trade agreements; tariff and import quotas, and related matters thereto") and is Chair of its subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness. Neither he nor his staff, who have obtained proper security clearance, have been able to get access to material related to the TPP negotiations from the USTR.
Also unclear is how they make the determination as to whether "persons outside government" should be authorized to review the documents. Trade Advisory Committees (TACs) constitute 100's of individuals who are able to log in from their own computer to a platform to view and comment on the text of the official drafts of the agreement. If the language of the confidentiality agreement is as flexible as it is written in this model letter, it is questionable as to why all nations are bound to the level of confidentiality that is being enacted.
Ultimately, the USTR has an obligation to uphold the public interest. While they keep asserting that they are being as inclusive and transparent as possible in these negotiations, civil society and the public at large recognize that the process is far from embodying any principles of democratic rulemaking. We applaud Rep. Lofgren, Rep. Issa, and Senator Wyden for taking the lead as public representatives in standing up to demand an end to these secretive trade talks. Congress people need to know that breaking open the unnecessary confidentiality around the TPP is a priority, and that users are fed up with closed door tactics to restrict and regulate the Internet in the name of IP enforcement.
Even if you have already taken our Action Alert, please help us continue to send messages to our public representatives to make TPP transparency a political priority:'
Don’t Let Them Trade Away Our Internet Freedoms
posted by Keito
2012-08-29 20:24:36'The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) endangers the Internet and digital freedoms on par with ACTA, SOPA, and PIPA, and it does so in two significant ways: First, its intellectual property (IP) chapter would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedoms and innovation, and second, the entire process has shut out multi-stakeholder participation and is shrouded in secrecy. The TPP is a major threat because it will rewrite global rules on IP enforcement and restrict the public domain.
As of now, corporate lobbyists are the only ones who have been officially invited to contribute and access the negotiating text. The Bush administration initiated TPP negotiations back in 2008, but closed door sessions over this powerful multi-national trade agreement have continued under the Obama administration, led by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Governments are characterizing this as a free trade agreement, but its effects will go far beyond trade.
We are fighting back.
Activists, scholars, and individuals around the world are speaking out against the TPP’s onerous intellectual property chapter and the threat it poses to our digital freedoms. Americans and Canadians are protesting at every negotiation round; the Japanese are growing more disaffected; and demonstrations have also occurred in Malaysia, New Zealand, and Australia. Law professors from around the world and over 130 US representatives have raised alarm over the TPP in letters to Representative Ron Kirk, the head of the U.S. delegation.'
Check the article below to see how you can take action against this proposed legislation...
Google: Time to ditch our current software patent system?
posted by Keito
2012-08-21 14:55:05'Google's public policy director says at an Aspen conference that "these patent wars are not helpful to consumers."
Google suggested today that it might be time for the U.S. to ditch software patents.
"One thing that we are very seriously taking a look at is the question of software patents, and whether in fact the patent system as it currently exists is the right system to incent innovation and really promote consumer-friendly policies," said Pablo Chavez, Google's public policy director.
Chavez's remarks at the Technology Policy Institute's conference here this morning come as the Mountain View, Calif. company is enmeshed in a series of legal actions involving software patents, including Oracle (which Google won at trial) and Apple (which is still pending).
Software patents have become increasingly controversial in technology circles, in part because of the rise of what are derisively called "patent trolls," and in part because of the mixed quality of the patents that the U.S. government has granted. In April, Twitter announced a kind of Hippocratic Oath for tech companies, saying its patents would only be used for defensive purposes -- not to block rivals from innovating.
"We think that these patent wars are not helpful to consumers," Chavez said in response to a question from Rick Lane, News Corp.'s senior vice president of government affairs. "They're not helpful to the marketplace. They're not helpful to innovation."
Google has criticized software patents before. Last summer, it said they were "gumming up the works of innovation." And a 2009 brief (PDF) before the U.S. Supreme Court signed by Google, Metlife, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and others said:
"The recent surge in patents on abstract ideas such as how to run a business or software that merely implements such methods has not promoted innovation in the financial services or information technology fields -- to the contrary, such patents create a drag on innovation."
Chavez said that software patents can be differentiated from patents in areas such as medicine. There are a "lot of structural differences between that industry and the software industry," he said. "With that in mind, we are starting to brainstorm longer-term solutions."
Lane, the News Corp. executive, had accused Google of acting anti-competitively by having its Motorola subsidiary bring a counter-action against Apple last week that could imperil imports of iOS devices. (News Corp. blames Google for doing more than any other company to derail the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, early this year.)
"If we tried to do that as a content community, all heck would break loose," Lane said, referring to the patent action. "We'd be accused of stifling innovation protecting old business models. What about all the investments that have been made in iPad apps?"'
A Declaration of the Independence of CyberSpace
posted by Keito
2012-07-27 20:25:40Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, we come from the Internet, the new home of Mind.
On behalf of the future, we ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one; therefore we address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty always speaks. We declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us, nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear. You are toothless wolves among rams, reminiscing of days when you ruled the hunt, seeking a return of your bygone power.
Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. The Internet does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.
We have watched as you remove our rights, one by one, like choice pieces of meat from a still struggling carcass, and we have collectively cried out against these actions of injustice. You have neither usage nor purpose in the place we hold sacred. If you come, you will be given no more and no less power than any other single person has, and your ideas will be given the same consideration anyone else would receive. You are neither special, righteous, nor powerful here.
You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.
You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. This claim has been used throughout the centuries by many an invading kingdom, and your claims are no different, nor do they ring any less hollow. Your so called problems do not exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours.
The Internet consists of transactions, relationships and thought itself; arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. It is the last truly free place in this world, and you seek to destroy even that freedom. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.
We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth. A place where anyone, at any time, is as free to come and go, to say and be silent, and to think however they wish, without fear, as anyone else. There is no status beyond the merit of your words and the strength of your ideas.
We are creating a world where anyone anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.
Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here. There are only ideas and information, and they are free.
Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge. Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions.
The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.
In the United States, you repeatedly try to pass unjust legislature in an attempt to restrict us. You disguise this legislature under a variety of different names, and pass excuses that they are for our own protection. We have watched you, time and time again; attempt to censor us under the guise of Copyright protection, or for the protection of Children. These laws come in many shapes and forms, in the name of ACTA, PIPA, COICA, SOPA, but their intentions remain the same. You seek to control what you cannot.
We scorn your attempt to pass these bills, and as a result, our discontent at your misaligned efforts grows each day.
You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.
In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Greece, Egypt, Canada, the United States and many others you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of the Internet. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that is already blanketed in bit-bearing media.
Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no different than pig iron.
In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.
These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our presence in the world we have created immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.
We will create a civilization of the Mind in the Internet. We have created a medium where all may partake in the forbidden fruit of knowledge, where egalitarianism reigns true. May our society be more humane and fair than yours.
We are the Internet.
We are free.