Secretive Copyright Negotiations Continue at the 16th Round of TPP Talks
The 16th round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) began in Singapore , as trade delegates and private stakeholders from 11 participating countries gather to discuss this the contours of Pacific trade. EFF and many others are deeply concerned about TPP, because it appears to contain an intellectual property (IP) chapter that would ratchet up IP enforcement at the expense of digital rights. The TPP could turn Internet Service Providers into copyright cops, prompt ever-higher criminal and civil penalties for sharing content, and expand protections for Digital Rights Management. The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has announced that they plan to complete the TPP by the fall of this year.
We say “appears to contain” because the negotiations have been carried out in secret: our understanding of the U.S. proposal is based primarily on leaked texts from February 2011. However, there have been some additional leaks, like those following the USTR announcement that the TPP would include exceptions and limitations to copyright. Despite the USTR’s effort to suggest that introducing fair use into the TPP was its idea, the leaked negotiating text made it clear that the U.S. was likely pressured into agreeing to exceptions and limitations as a concession. The leak also showed that the U.S. and Australia opposed any fair use that would extend to the “digital environment.” Thus, it appears the USTR continues to lobby for ever more stringent international IP standards without much regard for the collateral damage to the public interest.
As the deadline for concluding the TPP is fast approaching, it’s likely that they’ll be attempting to resolve disagreements in the IP language this round. Guess who won’t be part of that resolution? Yep: civil society.
What makes TPP—and in fact any trade agreement that carries copyright provisions—dangerous for Internet users is that IP enforcement is only one issue out of many others that are being negotiated within these agreements. Therefore countries may trade away their sovereign ability to make copyright regulations in the future if other terms of the TPP are more appealing to particular powerful industries in their country.
Our digital rights should not be traded away at these secretive negotiations for the benefit of a few corporate interests. Join EFF and more than 28,000 people in sending a message to Congress members to demand an end to these secret backdoor meetings:
The FBI has been adamant about withholding information about their plans to ensure the government can access any encrypted emails or messages sent over the Internet, but now a federal judge says the agency needs to come clean.
US District Judge Richard Seeborg took the side of the Electronic Frontier Foundation this week in a case that’s been disputed back and forth between Pennsylvania Avenue and Silicon Valley for years. Washington hopes to eventually roll out a program that will see that the FBI and other federal agencies are allowed backdoor access to any and all online communications. So far, though, they’ve managed to make much of the so-called “Going Dark” program a matter that’s shielded from interested parties, namely the EFF and other Internet activists. On Tuesday, Judge Seeborg agreed with the plaintiffs that the Justice Department has been not exactly accommodating with Freedom of Information Act paperwork filed by the San Francisco-based non-profit, and said the FBI and other federal agencies will have to go back and reassess those requests, ordering a “further review of the materials previously withheld.”
The EFF has on at least two occasions filed FOIA requests for info on the secretive surveillance blueprints the FBI has drafted, but the response have been scant at best. Judge Seeborg now rules that the DoJ will have to examine their annals once again for information, as their responses to the requests so far have been insincere.
“T]he Government is directed to conduct a further review of the materials previously withheld as non-responsive. In conducting such review, the presumption should be that information located on the same page, or in close proximity to undisputedly responsive material is likely to qualify as information that in ‘any sense sheds light on, amplifies, or enlarges upon’ the plainly responsive material, and that it should therefore be produced, absent an applicable exemption,” the judge ruled, according to court papers first spotted by CNet.
The two requests in particular that will have to be reassessed relate to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, a 1994 law that Judge Seeborg says was “designed to aid law enforcement efforts to conduct surveillance of digital telephone networks.” After nearly 20 years on the books, though, the EFF argues that law enforcement officers across the charts have wanted updated additions to the legislation, particularly because FBI Director Robert Mueller has told the US Senate as recently as September, “We must ensure that our ability to obtain communications pursuant to court order is not eroded,” because many companies “are not required to build or maintain intercept capabilities.”
We want to “be able to obtain those communications,” Mueller said during a May hearing on Capitol Hill. “What we’re looking at is some form of legislation that will assure that when we get the appropriate court order that those individuals — individual companies are served with that order do have the capability and the capacity to respond to that order.”
The EFF fears that the Justice Department is asking for amendments to the CALEA that
would “require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters, social networking websites, and “peer to peer” messaging services — to be technically capable of complying with wiretap orders, including being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.” What they actual are asking for remains up for debate, however, as those FOIA requests have been all but ignored.
When the Criminal Division of the DoJ decided to respond to the EFF, they said they found 8,425 pages of “potentially responsive information.” What they returned, however, was hardly that. “It ultimately released one page in full and 6 pages in part, and withheld 51 pages in full. DOJ also referred approximately 500 pages of potentially responsive information to other agencies for processing and possible production to plaintiff,” Judge Seeborg writes.
Both sides have been given 15 days by the judge to “meet and confer to negotiate a timetable for the FBI to complete” its revisions.
“It’s nice to have a court say the government can’t do that,” EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch tells CNet’s Declan McCullagh, adding that the judge’s ruling shows that the Justice Department now is required “to make an effort” to comply with the FOIA.