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Common Dreams

Tech Companies: Defend the Open Internet From the TPP

Coalition pens letter to Sen. Wyden urging opposition to Fast Track, transparency of negotiations

by
Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Photo: StopFastTrack/cc/flickr

The TPP, a far-reaching trade agreement being negotiated behind closed doors, threatens the open Internet, a group of nearly 30 tech companies has written in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden.

The group urges the Oregon Democrat and current chair of the Senate Finance Committee to oppose Fast Track legislation, which would "railroad" the agreement through Congress, and writes that the policies the TPP promotes must "serve more than the narrow commercial interests of the few large corporations who have been invited to participate."

The letter also notes Wyden's previous actions to defend online rights, as he "led the fight against" online-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA.

Of particular concern to the coalition, which includes BoingBoing, Techdirt, Credo Mobile and reddit, are copyright provisions as well as policies that stifle innovation.

The groups write, in part:

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Based on what we’ve seen in leaked copies of the proposed text, we are particularly concerned about the U.S. Trade Representative's proposals around copyright enforcement. Dozens of digital rights organizations and tens of thousands of individuals have raised alarm over provisions that would bind treaty signatories to inflexible digital regulations that undermine free speech. Based on the fate of recent similar measures, it is virtually certain that such proposals would face serious scrutiny if proposed a t the domestic level or via a more transparent process. Anticipated elements such as harsher criminal penalties for minor, non - commercial copyright infringements, a 'take - down and ask questions later' approach to pages and content alleged to breach copyright, and the possibility of Internet providers having to disclose personal information to authorities without safeguards for privacy will chill innovation and significantly restrict users' freedoms online.

Some aspects of U.S. copyright law, such as the [Digital Millennium Copyright Act]'s safe harbor provisions, have helped foster the vibrant tech industry in this country. But in other areas, we are due for major reforms — a fact made clear by Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante's call for the "Next Great Copyright Act" and the House Judiciary Committee's efforts to implement that reform. In light of these needed revisions, the U.S. system cannot be crystallized as the international norm and should not be imposed on other nations. It is crucial that we maintain the flexibility to re-evaluate and reform our legal framework in response to new technological realities. Ceding national sovereignty over critical issues like copyright is not in the best interest of any of the potential signatories of this treaty.

We can only build a successful innovation policy framework — one that supports new ideas, products, and markets — if the process to design it is open and participatory. Unfortunately, the trade negotiation process has been anything but transparent. Our industry, and the users that we serve , need to be at the table from the beginning to design policies that serve more than the narrow commercial interests of the few large corporations who have been invited to participate.

"There is only one reason to negotiate an Internet treaty in secret: because you want to break the Internet," Cory Doctorow, co-editor of BoingBoing, previously stated. "Moving copyright and Internet regulation out of the UN and into a series of smoke-filled rooms is a blinking red sign flashing WARNING CORRUPTION WARNING CORRUPTION for all to see."

The letter follows a joint call and days of action by over 50 groups to stop Fast Track authority, in addition to ongoing efforts by open Internet defenders like the Electronic Frontier Foundation to urge those in the U.S. to keep up the pressure on lawmakers to oppose Fast Track.

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