The full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership will likely not be made available for at least a month, but WikiLeaks released on Friday what appears to be the final text for the TPP’s chapter outlining terms related to intellectual property.
Advocacy groups don’t like what they see.
The 60-page chapter covers matters ranging from drug patents to copyright terms to trade secrets, and it’s not exactly an easy read. But in the brief period following the leak, several groups have already raised a number of complaints.
Jeremy Malcolm, writing on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights group, declared the chapter is “all that we feared.” Among his chief concerns were:
- The expansion of the United States’ lifetime-plus-70-years rule afforded to copyright holders
- Punishment for attempts to circumvent digital rights management (DRM) restrictions that are independent of punishments for copyright infringement — a case which seems to make users liable for hacking DRM-protected material even if no copyright infringement is committed.
- Criminalization of “unauthorised, willful access to a trade secret held in a computer system,” despite the absence of an analogous offline restriction, a move that Malcolm calls a “full-frontal attack on hackers and journalists.”
Additionally, Malcolm claims that the text guarantees a number of measures designed to benefit rights-holders, while making measures that benefit users non-binding.
“The negotiators don’t know or care much about copyright . . . They are primarily interested in trade, but copyright is about much more than trade,” Malcolm told Business Insider in an email. “It’s about children having affordable access to learning materials, libraries having the ability to archive old books, and mash-up artists being able to create new works out of the culture that surrounds them.”
Malcolm criticised the influence of lobbyist-dominated advisory boards on the private negotiation process — one of the most virulent critiques of the partnership. “We know that much of the text was actually written by these corporate lobbyists, and submitted to the U.S. trade negotiators to be used in the negotiations.” It may sound frightening, but it isn’t far from the truth.
Intellectual Property Watch obtained 400 pages of emails from a Freedom of Information Act request that reveals what it called a “close-knit relationship between negotiators and the industry advisors that is likely unmatched by any other stakeholders.”
Other countries in the partnership don’t fight some of the controversial pieces of the deal “because it is more important to them to satisfy their local farmers and manufacturers, who simply want to expand the market for their exports,” according to Malcolm.
The lobbyists on advisory boards are representing more than just copyright interests.
Hillary Clinton cited concerns that pharmaceutical companies were benefiting too much from an agreement that she felt offered little to patients and consumers, and she is not alone in that fear.
Public Citizen, a consumer rights group, fears that the TPP would “put medicines out of reach” with regulations that Peter Maybarduk with the Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines organisation says “would cost lives.”
“These final TPP rules would lengthen, strengthen and broaden special patent and data protections, which pharmaceutical companies use to delay generic competition and keep drug prices high,” Maybarduk continued.
Public Citizen’s analysis of the relevant stipulations claims that not only would the TPP impose patent term extensions and lengthen marketing exclusivities, but that brief transition periods would require developing TPP nations to quickly conform to rules which will “limit access to affordable medicines.”
The organisation also opposed the controversial exclusivity provisions for “biologics.” Biologics, as Vox explains, are drugs produced from biological processes, rather than from lab synthesis. Data exclusivity provisions for biologic drugs were a difficult sticking point in the TPP negotiations. That provision would stop companies from producing cheaper generics within a certain number of years.
In the US, biologic medicine data is protected for 12 years, though Obama has been pushing for a reduction to 7 for years now. Public Citizen expressed concern at the TPP’s 5-year minimum for data exclusivity, citing that the language could allow the Office of the US Trade Representative to “harass countries in the future, and keep pushing for longer monopolies and industry profits at the expense of people’s health.”
Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) — who wrote a 16-page report called “Broken Promises,” detailing what she considers the failures of previous trade agreements — have both been strong opponents of the deal.
Sanders called the TPP “a disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations, at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy.”
The partnership must be ratified by each of the participating countries. Even once President Obama officially indicates to Congress his intention to sign, Congress will still have at least 90 days to mull it over before voting on the deal.
Clinton’s aggressive opposition could potentially complicate that process.
The leaked chapter can be found at WikiLeaks.
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