The VICE Channels

    The Free Internet's Newest Threat Is a Secret Treaty Being Negotiated by a Dozen Countries

    Written by

    Derek Mead


    Worldwide, there's a torrent of negotiations concerning intellectual property laws happening right now. All of them threaten to restrict the innovation and the flow of information online—whether overtly or accidentally, it doesn't matter. But of all the treaties and pacts being discussed, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement most likely poses the biggest current threat to a free 'net.

    I say most likely because the TPP is being negotiated in total secret. No press and no one from the public are allowed to sit in on the negotiations happening in Lima, Peru. But we do know from a leaked chapter of the TPP agreement that one goal of the agreement is to further restrict what falls under the rules of fair use. The Electronic Frontier Foundation thinks that's indicative of the TPP being used by the United States (read: the MPAA and RIAA) to export its heaviest copyright restrictions into a massive Pacific trade agreement while still stripping back fair use exceptions.

    What does that have to do with the internet? Well, as the great EFF video above explains, the TPP is shaping up to look like the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which aimed to move IP regulation discussions from open groups like the World Trade Organization towards secret regional pacts, and which is still popular in US politics.

    Imagine SOPA, but international, and you're getting towards what TPP appears to be: an agreement aimed at giving more latitude for officials to destroy, seize, or block content that is deemed to be copyright infringing, whether it is or not, with harsher penalties across the board. For the internet, it means more restrictions, more snooping, and, for example, more domain seizures without due process. 

    It's enough to make you miss the SOPA days. Then, free internet proponents knew what they were fighting against; it was all visible in Congress, citizens spoke, and democracy worked. But because the powerful, well-connected and well-funded interests embodied by the RIAA and MPAA didn't get the result they wanted, they've continued to keep trying to get laws passed. Only every time a new attempt is made, it's further underground.