TPP Could ‘Undermine Health of Web’ Say 250+ Tech Companies and Digital Rights Groups

Written by on May 21, 2015 in Government, Internet Control, Policies, Politics with 0 Comments
‘We simply cannot allow our policymakers to use secret trade negotiations to make digital policy for the 21st century,’ says Electronic Frontier Foundation
"The Fast Track process actively silences the voices of Internet users, start-ups, and small tech companies," say digital activists. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)

“The Fast Track process actively silences the voices of Internet users, start-ups, and small tech companies,” say digital activists. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)

More than 250 tech companies and digital rights organizations on Wednesday sent a joint letter to Congress, blasting the corporate-backed trade deal they say “actively silences the voices of Internet users, start-ups, and small tech companies…while undermining the health of the entire Web.”

The letter (embedded below)—whose signatories include AVG Technologies, DreamHost, Namecheap, Mediafire, Imgur, Internet Archive, BoingBoing, Piwik, Private Internet Access, and more than 200 others—calls on Congress to come out against Fast Track, or Trade Promotion Authority, which they say “legitimizes” the secret process under which mammoth trade pacts are negotiated.

“The Fast Track…process actively silences the voices of Internet users, start-ups, and small tech companies while giving the biggest players even more power to set policy that benefits a few select companies while undermining the health of the entire Web,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of the digital rights group Fight for the Future.

In particular, the letter expresses concerns about how the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership—which it notes goes “far beyond the scope of traditional trade policy”—would impact everything from net neutrality to online freedom of expression to digital innovation.

“We simply cannot allow our policymakers to use secret trade negotiations to make digital policy for the 21st century,” said Maira Sutton, global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The TPP is a huge threat to the Internet and its users. Full stop.”

Leaked portions of the TPP agreement and the current Fast Track bill indicate “that no one is even considering the impact on the digital economy and digital rights,” added Mike Masnick, founder of the Copia Institute, a new ‘digital-native’ think tank.


For example, the letter reads: “The TPP Investment Chapter contains text that would enable corporations to sue nations over democratic rules that allegedly harm expected profits. Companies can use this process to undermine U.S. rules like fair use, net neutrality, and others designed to protect the free, open Internet and users’ rights to free expression online.”

David Heinemeier Hansson, partner at Basecamp and creator of the popular Ruby on Rails web development framework: “TPP makes a mockery of democratic legislative ideals. It’s shrouded in secrecy exactly because it would wither in sunlight. It’s a terrible piece of overreach to endow a few special interests with enormous and unsavory power. The whole thing needs to be scrapped and started over. International trade is too important to have it hitched to this collection of wishful thinking by a select few.

That such provisions have been crafted with minimal transparency should serve as a warning, said author and journalist Cory Doctorow, who declared: “Democracies make their laws in public, not in smoke-filled rooms. If TPP’s backers truly believed that they were doing the people’s work, they’d have invited the people into the room. The fact that they went to extreme, unprecedented measures to stop anyone from finding out what was going on—even going so far as to threaten Congress with jail if they spoke about it—tells you that this is something being done to Americans, not for Americans.”

The full letter is embedded below:

Dear Members of Congress,

We write to you as a community representing thousands of our nation’s innovators, entrepreneurs, job-creators, and users to express our concern over trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Despite containing many provisions that go far beyond the scope of traditional trade policy, the public is kept in the dark as these deals continue to be negotiated behind closed doors with heavy influence from only a limited subset of stakeholders.

The recently-introduced Fast Track bill (the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, “the Bill”) would not remedy the utter lack of transparency of the negotiation process, nor does it include any language to ensure that these deals would contain safeguards to protect our interests in freedom of expression and innovation online. These are just some of our specific concerns we have:

*    Threats to Fair Use: The TPP contains language that could prevent countries from expanding exceptions and limitations to copyright. The Fast Track Bill also contains nothing to promote balance in copyright law. This is despite how much value fair use has added to the U.S. economy and could add for investors in the growing economies of our trading partners.

*    Expensive and Harmful Costs of Online Enforcement: U.S. law incentivizes online content providers to take down content over a mere allegation of infringement. The TPP will likely emulate these rules, continuing to make it expensive and onerous for startups and small companies to oversee users’ activities and process each takedown notice.

*    Criminalizing Journalism and Whistleblowing: TPP’s trade secrets provisions could make it a crime for people to reveal corporate wrongdoing “through a computer system.” The language is dangerously vague, and enables signatory countries to enact rules that would ban reporting on timely, critical issues affecting the public.

*   Investor-State Courts Jeopardize User Protections: The TPP Investment Chapter contains text that would enable corporations to sue nations over democratic rules that allegedly harm expected future profits. Companies can use this process to undermine U.S. rules like fair use, net neutrality, and others designed to protect the free, open Internet and users’ rights to free expression online.

Overall, the Bill would legitimize the secret process that has led to these provisions, while doing nothing to ensure that these agreements would enable lawmakers to work towards striking the right balance between the interests of copyright holders and those of users and innovators. As such, we urge you to come out against the Fast Track bill and call on your colleagues in Congress to do the same.

Sincerely,

2b1Inc
ACN Telecommunications & Energy
Adafruit Industries
Advanced Surfaces and Processes Inc.
Airborne Surfer Media
Aldine Publications, LLC
Alpine Travel Services
Archer Law Offices PC
art-efex.com
ArtsDigital.co
Astonishing Legends Productions, LLC
Atlantistechs
Automation Technology, Inc.
Autopia, Ltd
AVG Technologies
Babel Consulting, Inc.
BAGeL Radio
Basecamp
Baumhauerphoto.com
Bay Buys, LLC
Bead & Reel
Bilerico Media LLC
Black Hills Computer Consulting, Inc.
Blue Dog Mobile Marketing
Blue Gothic Design Studios, LLC
BlueTree Website Design
Bohemian Jedi
Boing Boing
Breakwind Farm
Butterflies & Blueberries, Inc
Catalysta LLC
Cell Nation, Inc.
Centerlyne
Cheezburger Network
Chocolate Pocket, LLC
Civic Hall
CoachAccountable, LLC
Codecooler.com
Collaborative Design and Planning
Comatose Podcast
Computer Fix-It
ComputerGiant Consulting, Inc.
Concentric Sky, Inc.
Connect Everywhere LLC
CONTEMPL8 T-SHIRTS LLC
Copia Institute
crasstalk.com
Create Your Health, LLC
CREDO Mobile
CTVotersCount.org
Cultural Circle Poetry Workshops
Curren Media Group
Deskninja Studios LLC
Disconnect
DJs Computers
Dobson Computer Svcs
DreamHost
Duct Tape Programming
eCnet Solutions
Eden Foods
Edison Cimputers, Inc.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Ellicottville Real Estate
Engineered Fear, LLC
Eric A. Wessman, Photographer, LLC
ET Productions
Euphonic Studio LLC
EvoText Inc.
Expri Communications LLC
Extracto Enterprises (dba Extracto Coffee Roasters)
Facture Studios
FarSight Data Systems
Fathom
FDA Consulting, LLC
Fight For the Future
FIVELEAF IT, INC.
Floorchan Networks
Fun1schat
Gamercredo
GCP Design & Marketing
Giganator games
GlowHost.com, LLC
Go2RIA INC
Golden Frog
GR KOMPLETE PRODUCTIONS LLC.
Great Scott Technology LLC
Griffae Design, LLC
GSM Nation
Hackers/Founders
Hacktron Technology Inc.
Handmade Interactive LLC
Harrison’s Websites
HD Supply
HomeWorks REI
Honor Health
HRData
Humblebee Media
iFixit
Ignition Digital
Imgur
Infinite Functions, Inc.
info4disasters
Inspiro Business Solutions
Intelligent Solutions, LLC
Internet Archive
JJ Industry
Juan Calvillo Photography
JustPlainTV
JWorks Studios
Kaup Communications
Kestrel Biologic
KKI
Knowledge Ecology International
Koame Systems International
KSER
Lakehub, LLC
Laurel Digital, LLC
Liquid Mastering
Local Loop Farms
Local Wave Maker, LLC
Ludwig Sewing Machine Company
Lulu Luna
m & e tech new york
MakeHartford
Mangaden
ManzoPhotoCraft
Marc Berner Music
Married to Health
Massachusetts Pirate Party
MCM Inventions, Inc.
McSwain Photography
Mechvision, Inc.
MediaFire
MediaIgniter, LLC
Melody Lanes Recording
Merchant Services Group LLC
Metamuse Media
Microfrost.com
Minvera Hosting, LLC.
Mojo Bureau
MonadCloud LLC
Moons Over Missouri
Mortar Data Inc.
Move To Amend
MrG Associates
Munnich Design LLC
Myrick Visual, LLC
Namecheap, Inc
Natalie Cannon’s Editorial Services
Native American Films
Nelson Specialties Co.
Netcetera, Inc.
New Games
Node-Nine, Inc.
North Coast Radiology
NY Tech Meetup
Occupy Bellingham
Ocean Motion Media, LLC
OceanSky Web Design
Off-Road Concepts
OnHolyGround Networks, LLC
Open Heart Press
Out Front Magazine
PacifiCAD Incorporated
Pacius Designs
palesca
Panelist Media
Participatory Culture Foundation
Pawzii, Inc.
PEACEWORKERS
Penny Films
PermaSolutions
Personal Democracy Media
Personal Technology Consulting, LLC
Pete Miller’s Water and Wildlife Studio
Phoenix Quintet
Phosphoros Media, LLC
Piwik
Pixel8, Inc
PrepaidPhoneNews.com
Private Internet Access™
Pryor Computer Forensics
Purple Sail Creative LLC
Quaraishi Enterprises
QuipTracks LLC
Ralphie’s Portal
Read Andra Watkins LLC
Relatively Free Press
Research Associates
Right Angles Technologies Inc.
Riverstone
RO Productions
Robosane
Rootwork.org
Rylen & Rhys Originals
Ryno Media House
sampleloft.com
San Juan Tech Services
San Juan Update
Satori
Sentinel SDK
SEO Hosting and Design
SEPTA
SHS Forum
Silicon Engines
Sixth Sensitivity
Snap Synapse LLC
Social Hamlet
Sound Data Services
Spilled Milk Catering
Spiritbody Inc
Stirrup-Slippers.com
Studio Z Mendocino
Sturgeon Advertising
Success Systems International
Sue Kauffman Fitness
Synergy Marketing
Tangerine
Tau Ceti
Tax Lien Software Development and Analytics LLC
Tech@NYU
TechPointPro LLC
That Ruled Productions
The Eagle Directory
The General Store Seattle
The Laboratory Arts Collective Llc
The Modern Trade
The Naked Villain Society
The Public Society
The Regulator Online
The Sound Guy, Inc.
Thirstea Cafe
ThisGuys Development
Thompson Films, LLC
ThoughtWorks, Inc.
Thunder Puppy Art
Thunderclap, Inc
Tiny Design Studio
tNY Creative LLC (DBA tNY.Press)
Tom’s computer repair
Trade Inflo
Trinartia
Trophies ‘N Tees
TunnelBear Inc.
Twin Peaks Creative
Unchained Creations
Update International
USA Corporate Services Inc.
VikingVPN
Web Magi
Well Spent
Whatsits Galore
Whistling Kettle, LLC
Wicked Liquid
Willow Technology, Inc.
Wizards Familiar
Wolfestar Design
WOMEN RISING RADIO
woolly&wise LLC
WyvernIRC
X Desk Publishing
X-Lab

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