SOPA Should Have Ended Backroom Deals About Copyrights & Patents; So Why Is TPP Still Secret?

from the bring-it-in-the-open dept

There's a fantastic op ed in the NY Times, by Lori Wallach and Ben Beachy from Public Citizen, questioning why the TPP negotiating texts are still secret. As they note, this level of secrecy is unprecedented:
Even the George W. Bush administration, hardly a paragon of transparency, published online the draft text of the last similarly sweeping agreement, called the Free Trade Area of the Americas, in 2001.
But, of course, we all know the answer as to why. As they note, for all this secrecy, the administration has given tremendous access to "600 trade advisers" -- basically employees from big companies who get privileged access to the draft text and to negotiators that even Congress is denied. And it's pretty damn clear that the administration just doesn't want Congress to have much say in this, because Congress might actually do its job and represent the public's interest. In fact, the op-ed notes, former USTR Ron Kirk was pretty explicit about this:
So why keep it a secret? Because Mr. Obama wants the agreement to be given fast-track treatment on Capitol Hill. Under this extraordinary and rarely used procedure, he could sign the agreement before Congress voted on it. And Congress’s post-facto vote would be under rules limiting debate, banning all amendments and forcing a quick vote.

Ron Kirk, until recently Mr. Obama’s top trade official, was remarkably candid about why he opposed making the text public: doing so, he suggested to Reuters, would raise such opposition that it could make the deal impossible to sign.
But, you would think that the administration had learned something from the SOPA fight (and the ACTA fight in Europe) -- and it's that the public is not a fan of deals regarding copyright and patents that are negotiated by big business representatives in back rooms. Administration officials who think that TPP is different than SOPA because it let a few tech companies into the back room may find themselves mistaken.
Remember the debate in January 2012 over the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have imposed harsh penalties for even the most minor and inadvertent infraction of a company’s copyright? The ensuing uproar derailed the proposal. But now, the very corporations behind SOPA are at it again, hoping to reincarnate its terms within the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s sweeping proposed copyright provisions.

From another leak, we know the pact would also take aim at policies to control the cost of medicine. Pharmaceutical companies, which are among those enjoying access to negotiators as “advisers,” have long lobbied against government efforts to keep the cost of medicines down. Under the agreement, these companies could challenge such measures by claiming that they undermined their new rights granted by the deal.
If the administration is betting that as long as they keep big business happy, that the public protests won't matter, they may be in for a surprise.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 10:59pm

    Actually, it's the opposite. SOPA was the moment of "And we would've gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you pesky kids, and that mangy mutt, too!"

    No, to preempt the usual idiots who hate due process, this isn't in defence of SOPA, because the unremovable-block-on-accusation that SOPA touted defeats the whole purpose of ending backroom deals.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 11:02pm

    while this treaty text is ketp secret there is hardly anything to hit at, Im sure speculation is close to the truth, why else would the secrecy remain. And no leaks have come from the corporate advisers, so there must be perceived great profits to stay with the treaty process.
    The key to the secrecy provisions must be on the american side, No other party has the economic clout of the US, even with its lingering economic woes, to compel secrecy from the other parties to the negotiation.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 11:14pm

    NAFTA, CAFTA, KORUS and all the other Free Exploitation Agreements (FEA) have so far had a great track record.

    The tiny crash in 2008 is an isolated incident that had nothing to do with FEA.

    The Fed is printing lots of money so that means America has more monies than we've ever had. So that means FEA is a huge success!

     

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  4.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jul 11th, 2013 @ 1:06am

    The simple answer? They didn't get the real message. All you have to do is look at the arguments of the industry shills here to see how the message was skewed, and how the issue is probably being presented to the politicians.:

    "It wasn't a grassroots reaction, it was all paid for by Google"

    "Only the pirates were complaining"

    "People just didn't understand the bill because parts were leaked before they were corrected"

    ...and so on.

    They simply don't understand that the major problems were the secrecy and lack of public input. Their lobbyists, of course, understand that without secrecy there's no way to have a chance of pushing through the crap they want that would fail to protect their industry while damaging every other, but since that's what they're paid to push they're not going to let on.

     

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  5.  
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    Nima, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 1:38am

    "Ron Kirk, until recently Mr. Obamaís top trade official, was remarkably candid about why he opposed making the text public: doing so, he suggested to Reuters, would raise such opposition that it could make the deal impossible to sign."

    I...there is almost a zen like level of wrong right here. Basically what he seems to be saying that he doesn't want to reveal the TPP because they don't want the democratic process to occur.

     

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  6.  
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    Nimas, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 1:39am

    Bleh, name typo >

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 3:38am

    Re:

    Didn't stop people from hitting Microsoft over the XBOned.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 4:00am

    "But, you would think that the administration had learned something from the SOPA fight (and the ACTA fight in Europe) -- and it's that the public is not a fan of deals regarding copyright and patents that are negotiated by big business representatives in back rooms."

    They learned something - that in order to pass these "agreements" that only benefits the crony capitalists writing them, the actual text must be kept even more secret. The people that are to be fleeced might otherwise become very angry at the prospect of having another chunk of their paycheck transferred to corrupt plutocrats.

     

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  9.  
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    John doe, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 4:53am

    But they did learn something...

    But, you would think that the administration had learned something from the SOPA fight

    They did learn something, they learned that if the public knows what they are up to, i.e. SOPA, NSA spying, the public won't like it and will try to stop it. The King cannot allow his subjects to do that.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 5:18am

    Re:

    I do not believe the "they don't understand"-argument. In lobbyism it is all about dismissing any facts flying in the face of your eternal truth.

    In this case, diverting the blame from grassroots to Google is a way to dispell the shock of the politicians about some voters they didn't understand. By saying Google is secretly inciting a revolt they are both smearing Google and making it impossible to proove that they are straight up lying.

    Blaming pirates is a way to indirectly say that it was only a flashmob created by a lawbreaking minority. Again, to calm politicians. This one can be attacked by looking at numbers.

    Blaming misunderstanding is the only piece that can actually backfire on its own. It is a way to legitimize the pirates claim. Since several legal experts were clear in their spit about SOPA, it is an incredible statement. The only way this lie holds is because lobbyists can crowd out independent professional opinions any day of the week.

    Demagoguery is the name of the game. Lobbying is dirty.

     

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  11.  
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    PopeRatzo (profile), Jul 11th, 2013 @ 5:23am

    Not down with TPP

    Whistleblowers, now is the time to do your stuff.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 5:28am

    stupid question, really. the answer is that the USA are involved and it doesn't want the rest of the world to know how it is stitching everywhere else up until it is too late. throwing 'encouragements' to certain people to aid in the secrecy needs to be exposed and those people giving and receiving need to be publicly known and taken to court! no 'deal' that the US is involved in will be of any benefit to anywhere except the US!

     

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  13.  
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    MikeC (profile), Jul 11th, 2013 @ 5:32am

    If you've got nothing to hide....

    Isn't that what Gov & NSA & POTUS saying -- they tell us the surveillance is only a problem if you are a terrorist, if you are doing something wrong. So by the same analogy, secrecy in the negotiations - well they must be doing something they are sure we wouldn't like right? We are back to the american "Just-Us" system of laws and rule. Only for just-us with influence and gov connections right?

    Used to always tell my new parents in scouts -- we behave in a manner that if it was filmed and on the 11 o'clock news - we wouldn't be worried if everyone saw it. Simple as that. No complicated rules.

    Mike C

     

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  14.  
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    RyanNerd (profile), Jul 11th, 2013 @ 6:05am

    Congress may do it's job

    Sorry. Difficult for me to type. I'm still on the floor my sides aching with laughter at this statement.

     

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  15.  
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    theDude, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 6:06am

    No Way

    "Congress might actually do its job and represent the public's interest."

    No way that would happen, so it canít be the reason for secrecy. I donít know what the reason is, but this premise isnít it.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 6:27am

    Laws and treaties are put in place to control what others do, not what the Good Guys do.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 6:35am

    The truth is 95% of the country doesn't care much about copyright or IP law. Or if they do, it is way down a long list of other concerns.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 6:57am

    Re:

    95% of the population do not matter and therefore do not have a say in what happens to them, this hardly new.

    What is new is that there is now a readily accessible medium for discussion of same thus creating a lot of more informed within the 95% and the 5% do not like that and they see it as a threat.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 8:21am

    Ron Kirk is looking to advance his career after he leaves politics. How do you expect him to do that when you pesky protesters keep killing his bills?

     

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  20.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 11th, 2013 @ 11:37am

    Re:

    The answer is that the USA are involved and it doesn't want the rest of the world to know how it is stitching everywhere else up until it is too late.


    I think they're less concerned about the rest of the world knowing than they are about the American people knowing.

    "The major function of secrecy in Washington is to keep the U.S. people ... from knowing what the nationís leaders are doing." -- John Stockwell

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 2:34pm

    of course this keeps happening. It is kind of hard to respect people who get screwed, cheated, and double crossed, and yet keep handing the people who do it their jobs back every couple of years.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 5:19pm

    How was SOPA a back room deal. Drafts were flying all over the place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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