Leaked Intellectual Property Chapter of Trade Agreement Sparks Outcry

December 4, 2013

Groups making a commotion over the leaked intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are really just opposed to intellectual property laws in general, says Tom Giovanetti, president of the Institute for Policy Innovation.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed trade agreement between the United States and a handful of other nations. Intended to tackle modern-day trade issues, the agreement includes an intellectual property (IP) chapter, which was leaked by WikiLeaks in mid-November.

Controversy abounded, as groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Knowledge Ecology International -- who regularly advocate against IP protection -- cried foul, insisting that the proposed agreement threatened the internet.  And because there is great appreciation for the internet, but little zealous public support for IP protection, these activists stir up the public by manufacturing a case that the internet is endangered.

What does the TPP actually do? The leaked chapter demonstrates that the United States is simply asking the other TPP countries to adopt IP policies that are similar to U.S. law and similar to existing trade agreements -- from copyright term lengths to fair use provisions to digital rights management.

  • The leaked chapter indicates that the United States has not pushed for extreme laws, but has only sought 1) what already exists in U.S. law, 2) provisions that are less than what U.S. law requires, or 3) language that exists in other trade agreements that have been implemented.
  • TPP makes no changes to existing U.S. law and the United States does not push for any policies in excess of current law. Since 2000, no free trade agreement has required changes to U.S. law.

Those opposed to the TPP claim that the proposal attempts to force American standards on other, less-developed countries. But Giovanetti notes that the people complaining about these IP standards never have similar complaints with trade agreements that implement U.S. labor standards or environmental standards on other countries. The controversy over TPP is really just a policy disagreement with existing American law. Because these activist groups do not like IP laws, they are going to be opposed to any trade agreement that allows U.S. IP law to become the norm.

Source: Tom Giovanetti, "The Truth About the Leaked IP Chapter of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)," Institute for Policy Innovation, November 17, 2013.

 

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