The secretive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a done deal.
Negotiated, written, and even released where hoi polloi like us can read it, on the U.S. Trade Representative’s website. It’s still awful, calling for more parts of the DMCA to be worldwide, but not as awful as it was. Thanks to the efforts of groups like Public Knowledge and EFF, and New Zealand, which has taken the strange position of not criminalizing the normal behavior of its citizens, it was toned down. ACTA is now all packed up with a little bow waiting for legislatures to approve it, but the companies behind it have already left it like last week’s tuna sandwich.
Turns out the 37 nation trade-maximalist agreement is, like, so five minutes ago. The new hotness in oppressive copyright regimes is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Intellectual Property chapter, cleverly hidden under the unsearchable acronym TPP IP. Yes, Google, I really did mean TPP IP.
This time around, our trade reps are going after the Pacific Rim. Outlandishly huge damages, copyright extensions that will be spry when Halley’s Comet returns, and DMCA-style anticircumvention laws that criminalize watching DVDs on Linux is just the start. TPP goes further. It calls for software patent protection and tries to establish technical incoherencies like copyright protection for temporary copies. This is a fancy way of saying that rights holders can either charge you extra for the contents of your cache files, slap DRM on them, or both. It’s like everything bad about IP in one steaming pile and about as close as current technology can get to letting the studios charge you for thinking about a movie.
It’s done in our name, but authored by PhRMA, MPAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s a harmonizing treaty, so they’re poised to ram it down the throat of whatever tiny nation provides the thinnest excuse for the copyright holders, then come back to our congress, pleading trade agreement as an excuse to pass even stricter laws. Someday we should try to get our name back.
Quinn Norton writes about copyright for Wired News and other publications. Her work has ranged from legal journalism to the inner life of pirate organizations.