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:'
Copyright Killbots Strike Again: Official DNC Livestream Taken Down By Just About Every Copyright Holder
posted by Keito
2012-09-05 21:21:27'Here we go again. Less than 24 hours ago, content-protection bots killed a livestream of the Hugo Awards, thanks to the brief appearance of fully approved clips from an episode of Dr. Who. The whole situation was completely absurd to anyone harboring the tiniest vestige of common sense, but IP-protection software isn't built on common sense: it's built on algorithms.
This time, content protection via crawling bots have taken down another approved, perfectly legal stream. The victim this time? The Democratic National Convention's official stream, hosted at YouTube. As Wired reports, if you're looking to catch up on last night's activities, including a speech by Michelle Obama, don't bother:
The video, posted by the official YouTube account for the convention, DemConvention2012, was blocked, according to YouTube, for ostensibly infringing on the copyright of one of many possible suspects:
This video contains content from WMG, SME, Associated Press (AP), UMG, Dow Jones, New York Times Digital, The Harry Fox Agency, Inc. (HFA), Warner Chappell, UMPG Publishing and EMI Music Publishing, one or more of whom have blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.
Sorry about that.
When contacted by Wired for comment, Erica Sackin, an Obama campaign staffer who works on digital outreach, had no knowledge of the outage, asked this reporter for the url and then upon seeing the takedown, said, "I'll have to call you back."
The video has since been updated to state that "This video is private." There's probably quite a bit going on behind the scenes at the moment, but fortunately Wired snagged the complete list of claimants for future reference.
Take a good, long look at that list. There's a few of the usual suspects in there, including AP, UMG and Warner, entities not known to be shy about claiming content that isn't theirs.
Now, these entities aren't directly responsible for this takedown. This is more of an automated match situation, but it still doesn't change the fact that the inherent stupidity of the action, automated or not, does absolutely nothing to lock down stray, unmonetized content and absolutely everything to highlight the ridiculous nature of copyright protection in a digital age.
If Google can work with copyright holders to produce content matching software, it seems like it might be possible to designate certain accounts or entities as "off limits" from the wandering killbots. If the stream is authorized by, I don't know, the party of the current President of the United States, maybe, just fucking maybe, everything's "above board."
Sure, defining legitimate, pre-approved accounts may prove to be as difficult as determining which content is infringing and which isn't, but this should be the sort of thing that content holders should be working toward, rather than simply moving from disaster to disaster, smugly secure in the knowledge that filthy file sharers are getting content-blocked thousands of times a day.
Nice going, huge list of content holders. Your boundless, maximalist enthusiasm is just another nail in the coffin containing what's left of copyright's reputation.'
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?"'
Motorola files patent lawsuit against Apple, aims to block U.S imports of its products
posted by Keito
2012-08-19 12:53:40'Google's Motorola division claims Apple is infringing on seven of its patents and wants to block iPhone, iPad, and Mac computers from being imported to the U.S.
Since Google’s acquisition of Motorola back in February, the Droid expert has stayed quiet about its previous grievances with Apple. But now, according to Bloomberg, Google’s Motorola division has filed a new patent lawsuit against Apple (following Samsung’s lead), opening some old wounds leftover from Motorola and Apple’s long-standing legal disputes. The complaint, submitted to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), names features like location reminders, email notifications, along phone and video players as possible infringements.
The complaints target Apple features used extensively in its product line up and given Google’s desire to block U.S. imports of Apple products (Apple manufactures its product line in Asia), a win would strike a major blow. Google seems to have its sights set on Apple destruction. The original patent dispute between Motorola Mobility and Apple was eventually dismissed in court, but Google’s Motorola division isn’t willing to lay it to rest.
“We would like to settle these patent matters, but Apple’s unwillingness to work out a license leaves us little choice but to defend ourselves and our engineers’ innovations,” wrote Motorola Mobility in an emailed statement.
The official document pertaining to this specific case won’t be available until Monday, so we will have to wait until the weekend’s over to learn the full details. The inevitable battle between Apple and Google may be a whole lot closer than we thought. And it’s nice to know we’ll have more legal battles to obsess over since Apple and Samsung’s recent disputes will soon reach a verdict.
FOSS Patent’s Florian Mueller notes that an ITC judge already made a preliminary judgement in the previous Motorola vs. Apple case, arguing that Apple did infringe on one of Motorola’s patent. The final ruling in the original case is expected to be released sometime next week. It’s also important to recognize, as Mueller points out, that if Motorola does achieve a ban on Apple products in the previous lawsuit, the iPad 4G and iPhone 4S would be exempt. Both use a Qualcomm chipset falling outside Motorola’s patent claims.
For mobile fans, Monday can’t come soon enough. Do you think Google and Motorola stand a chance against Apple?'