Just before summer recess the European Parliament adopted a resolution regarding the EU-US trade agreement, the TTIP. It was generally positive to an agreement — even though the actual content of the TTIP still is unknown, in large parts.
Free trade as in free trade is a positive thing. But is this what the TTIP is about? Some would say it’s more about regulations. But we cannot tell for sure. The negotiations are conducted behind closed doors and the legislators in the European Parliament will probably not be allowed to see the entire text until negotiations are over. And then it will be to late to change anything. At that point all they can do is to to adopt or reject the whole package.
That was what happened with the ACTA agreement. It was also negotiated in secret. And it was also a package deal, impossible to change. Due to (among other things) possible limitations to a free and open Internet — the European Parliament surprised everyone by rejecting the deal.
So what’s in store when it comes to “intellectual property” and the Internet in TTIP? We still don’t really know. Some documents have been released (link»). But they are of a rather general nature and reveal very little when it comes to Internet related issues. But we have some indications.
This spring the European Parliaments legal affairs committee made a strong recommendation to exclude Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) from the TTIP (link»). However, in its’ recent resolution the EP failed to follow up on this recommendation (link»).
And we have the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, the TPP. One TPP document leaked by Wikileaks (link») suggests the following…
The 95-page, 30,000-word IP Chapter lays out provisions for instituting a far-reaching, transnational legal and enforcement regime, modifying or replacing existing laws in TPP member states. The Chapter’s subsections include agreements relating to patents (who may produce goods or drugs), copyright (who may transmit information), trademarks (who may describe information or goods as authentic) and industrial design.
The longest section of the Chapter – ’Enforcement’ – is devoted to detailing new policing measures, with far-reaching implications for individual rights, civil liberties, publishers, internet service providers and internet privacy, as well as for the creative, intellectual, biological and environmental commons. Particular measures proposed include supranational litigation tribunals to which sovereign national courts are expected to defer, but which have no human rights safeguards. The TPP IP Chapter states that these courts can conduct hearings with secret evidence. The IP Chapter also replicates many of the surveillance and enforcement provisions from the shelved SOPA and ACTA treaties.
It is expected that the TTIP will include something similar.
This suggests that TTIP will be ACTA all over again — when it comes to IPR, Internet related issues and civil rights.
The TTIP has already been heavily criticised when it comes to the “investor state dispute settlement” chapter, ISDS. But due to lack of substantial information civil society, activists and the media have yet not had any opportunity to react to any IPR and Internet related issues.
This might be a lesson the EU and US administrations have learned from ACTA — to play their cards close to their chest. The later this information is released, the harder it will be to build momentum for a campaign like the one that took down ACTA.
However, this is a weak plan. We know that there will be something. And we have some indications about what to expect. We are ready to take on the TTIP in full force and with short notice — to defend a free and open Internet. Like we did with ACTA.
I most strongly do recommend the EU and US administrations to follow the European Parliaments legal affairs committees recommendation to exclude IPR (and Internet related issues) from TTIP if they want this agreement to come true.
But they won’t.