Google Comes Down On The Wrong Side Of The TPP

from the short-sighted dept

This is extremely unfortunate, but not surprising. Google has made some noise sounding supportive of the TPP over the past year or so, and now it’s put out a blog post strongly supporting the agreement, and claiming that it’s good for intellectual property and the internet. The company is wrong. The statement is right about a big problem on the internet — the growing restrictions and limitations on the internet in different jurisdictions:

But Internet restrictions — like censorship, site-blocking, and forced local storage of data — threaten the Internet?s open architecture. This can seriously harm established businesses, startups trying to reach a global audience, and Internet users seeking to communicate and collaborate across national borders.

Yes, absolutely. And the TPP only tackles a tiny part of that — and in some ways makes other aspects worse. But that’s not what Google says. Instead, it misrepresents what the TPP really does. The post is correct about the issue of cross-border data flows and localization — and I agree that these are good things — but they’re small parts of an agreement that has so many other problems:

The Internet has revolutionized how people can share and access information, and the TPP promotes the free flow of information in ways that are unprecedented for a binding international agreement. The TPP requires the 12 participating countries to allow cross-border transfers of information and prohibits them from requiring local storage of data. These provisions will support the Internet?s open architecture and make it more difficult for TPP countries to block Internet sites — so that users have access to a web that is global, not just local. 

It’s after that where the post goes off the rails:

The TPP provides strong copyright protections, while also requiring fair and reasonable copyright exceptions and limitations that protect the Internet. It balances the interests of copyright holders with the public?s interest in the wider distribution and use of creative works — enabling innovations like search engines, social networks, video recording, the iPod, cloud computing, and machine learning. The endorsement of balanced copyright is unprecedented for a trade agreement. The TPP similarly requires the kinds of copyright safe harbors that have been critical to the Internet?s success, with allowances for some variation to account for different legal systems. 

This is just wrong, and it’s the most frustrating part of the post. The TPP expands copyright rules to ridiculous levels in many countries, including extending copyright terms at a time when there is no sound basis for advocating for extending copyright terms. And the “requiring fair and reasonable copyright exceptions and limitations that protect the Internet” is just wrong. Yes, it’s true that for the first time the USTR actually acknowledges user rights in such an agreement. In the past, all such trade agreements only focused on expanding copyright holder rights. So you can argue that’s progress. But the details showed that it’s not creating “fair and reasonable copyright exceptions and limitations,” but instead pushing a misleading tool that will limit the way countries can explore fair use, and (even more important) makes the fair use stuff optional. Google claiming that it requires such things is just… wrong.

The TPP advances other important Internet policy goals. It prohibits discrimination against foreign Internet services, limits governments? ability to demand access to encryption keys or other cryptographic methods, requires pro-innovation telecom access policies, prohibits customs duties on digital products, requires proportionality in intellectual property remedies, and advances other key digital goals

Yes, this part is also a good thing that it’s in the TPP, but (1) it’s so outweighed by bad things that it’s really not that big of a deal and (2) the issues around encryption and telecom access policies are not nearly as clear cut in the TPP as this blog post implies, nor are they necessary to do via the TPP process.

As I’ve said before, I’m a supporter of free trade, generally (unlike many who oppose the TPP). But the TPP is not about free trade, other than at the margins. There’s so much in there that’s about blatant protectionism and supporting certain business models over others. Of course, that’s how the trade game is played these days. Companies get big enough to influence the USTR to advocate for closed room deals that favor them. And Google is big enough to play that game. This public support of the TPP is a part of that game, but it’s unfortunate. The company could have and should have taken a stand on this, noting the things that are important in the TPP, but also being honest about the disastrous IP section and other problems in the agreement (such as the corporate sovereignty provisions that will almost certainly come back to bite Google and others).
There are good trade agreements to be made. And they can focus on things like protecting a free and open internet, and creating important safe harbors for communication and innovation. But the TPP is not that agreement — and it’s disappointing that Google has decided to jump on board, rather than highlight the very clear and very real problems of the TPP.

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Comments on “Google Comes Down On The Wrong Side Of The TPP”

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Mr. Oizo says:

You can't be surprised now, can you ?

You knew this was coming. We told you so. The innovators become the gatekeepers. That youtube contract they are ramming through artists throats should have been a clear sign, which you choose to ignore. I’ll give you another prediction: Google = the technical backend of the NSA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You can't be surprised now, can you ?

This is why Capitalism and Free-market must remain.

Regulation is the death of Free-market provides one stop shopping for corruption in government. The government and business literally gets into bed with each other and conspire to “manage” the citizen.

Socialism is the death of Capitalism and just provides a mechanism for government to tell you what you can have through either creating law or just never allowing business to produce it(they own it), who gets to produce it(if they allow production), and who gets to be rich (cronyism many time worse that capitalism).

Google figured it out already… “Don’t Be Evil” was a company slogan that only got in the way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You can't be surprised now, can you ?

So, get rid of government regulation. That is one of many talking points from an old and tired list of ridiculous proposals which would create many more severe problems that they “solve”.

Laissez-faire capitalism is not a viable or sustainable economic system, economic experts pretty much agree on this.

“Socialism is the death of Capitalism”
– This is silly.

Unbridled capitalism will not provide the necessary infrastructure that society needs in order to function, just look at the failing infrastructure found in the several states experimenting with their draconian austerity measures. Supply side trickle down has not worked in the past 30 some years but please just give it more time because it will certainly work then !!!

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: You can't be surprised now, can you ?

^This. I’m not a fan of the either/or proposition where Capitalism or Socialism are concerned. It’s not possible to have a society where either or both are implemented in full — humanity and reality keeps getting in the way.

Neither system is perfect. Capitalism created socialism by refusing to acknowledge the value of the people who make it work: the shmoes who do the actual work. You can only take one for the team so many times until you realise that you’re not actually on the damn team that you’re taking one for.

Capitalism needs to grow up and take responsibility for itself and its actions instead of blaming “government” for its failings.

michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: You can't be surprised now, can you ?

It’s important to note that the pretend “get rid of regulation” crowd are very careful to avoid talking about which regulations they actually want to keep and expand.

“The government’s always bad (until it stops protecting MY income stream)” would be the honest rallying cry for today’s pretend libertarians.

Mr. Skungeous says:

Re: Re: You can't be surprised now, can you ?

“Regulation is the death of Free-market”

‘Free-market’ is the death of civil liberty.

Oh, sure, a free market gives you total freedom. Total freedom to choose between obedience to corporate predators, or starvation. Total freedom to stand, powerless, as they tear your world apart. Total freedom to be used up and discarded. But hey, maybe you can get by flogging your own wares on Ebay in this free market; you’ll only need to compete with third world sweat shops to make enough income to overcome unrestricted price gouging by the big fish.

“Free market” is a dishonest euphemism for “market controlled by an authority other than government.”

JonC (profile) says:

First point, TPP contains some poison pills that are so bad they cannot be offset by any amount of good. It is broken to the point where it cannot be fixed.

Second point, IP protections are so broken that we should scrap them and maybe not start over. A world with no copyright/patent/trademark would certainly be different, but not necessarily bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: just how cozy is googs with the gummint ? ? ?

replying to offer a recent article at washingtons blog:

“An under-the-radar startup funded by billionaire Eric Schmidt has become a major technology vendor for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, underscoring the bonds between Silicon Valley and Democratic politics.”

in short, a bunch of google types are working for shillary, never too early to get on unka sugar’s gravy train…

Michael J. Evans (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Define ‘storing’.

Is it storing if I query a remote system for data and use the results somehow that is stored locally?

What if those results are in memory?

What if that memory is swapped to disk for some reason?

Does this geographically silo data?

What happens if two contacts are in different countries/regions?

How is data that the two happen to share (knowledge of each other’s contact information, shared messages, etc) to be handled? It can’t be stored exclusively in multiple countries.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Canada has several such laws. I assume stored means stored, just like it does with any/all computering legistlation and doesn’t apply to temporary RAM / other pedantic semantic “this is technically storage” crap. Generally the laws here usually include the same restrictions for accessing the data as well anyway though.

Basically it means your government can’t have laws that protects it’s citizens private data from foreign governments that don’t have decent privacy considerations.

Skeeter says:

TPP is no-good, period!

How can anyone actually address TPP? It is classified, our own Senate hasn’t even seen the whole document covering the powers within it (a select few have seen the ‘barely redacted version’)?!
In reality, the TPP has sections that cover everything from the Internet, to Gun-Control, to trade controls and private business, including calls for companies that won’t or can’t trade internationally being revoked of their local business licenses! (this means you, mom-and-pop bakery)

ANYONE who speaks out for TPP, without having seen TPP (this means EVERYONE), is a lying misleader. The words of one old hag, Nancy Pelosi, ring very clear on this topic, ‘YOU CAN’T SEE TPP UNTIL YOU RATIFY TPP’ (and we probably won’t let you see all of it then, either!)

That’s all the wisdom you need to know, to know it is BAD FOR BUSINESS.

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Remember when Google paid $billions for the Motorola patents?

At the time, Google sounded like good guys, keeping the Motorola patents out of the hands of trolls, and perhaps keeping them as MAD to fend off dubious claims by trolling competitors. But since then, someone of influence has recognized the money to be made and competition to be stifled if Google itself becomes a troll.

John Mitchell (profile) says:

"The company is wrong" is wrong. Are dog's "wrong" to bark?

Google is a corporation. The concept of right or wrong doesn’t’ work for them. Dogs sniff each other’s butts and bark. It may be annoying, but they are doing what dogs do. Corporations regularly do things take are not in the best interests of humanity — including things that would be totally wrong for a human to do. It’s wrong for humans because we have a conscience, and a moral compass. But the only guide to right and wrong for a corporation is what the charter says, coupled with what the law says. By that measure, advocating for something that will benefit the corporation’s shareholders at the expense of humanity is never wrong unless it is (a) illegal or (b) contrary to the corporation’s governing documents (which is like saying (a) again, but from a shareholder perspective). Google is not alone in this any more than my dog is alone in sniffing butts and barking at annoying times. It’s what corporations do, and if they don’t do it, shareholders might get restless. Google is neither good nor bad; its lobbying position is neither right nor wrong; Google is just a corporation – less than the inanimate object I’m sitting on, because at it has a body. It’s up to us humans to control them. (Hmmm. Maybe a shock collar?)

Anonymous Coward says:

Typical “Google is a corporation and thus should never be criticized on any grounds other than their bottom line” wankery from trolls aside, I want to know what happened to Google in the past 6 years.

They’ve gone from being the only big player lobbying in support of consumer empowerment, Fair Use, and Net Neutrality to being ambivalent or just plain hostile to users.

What happened? Page and Brin, what the hell happened to you two? You had all the trust of the Internet and squandered it in only a handful of years. And for what?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That’s more or less correct, but doesn’t really contradict my assertion. When companies make the shift from private to public, they rarely change their business practices quickly. The risk of losing customers is too high. Instead, the usual practice is to wait for a couple of years for things to settle down a bit. It’s the same thing, for the same reasons, that happens when one company buys another: they usually leave the purchased company alone for a couple of years before transforming it.

Ryan Strug says:

This is what irrational looks like. “just wrong” Um. Ok. Why? `limiting exploration of fair use` Unless you’re one of those empirical people and like human experimentation, which is rather unethical when people’s livelihoods are at stake, you can literally theorize that right now. Go ahead. Everybody’s listening.

Well, while you continue to think about that and have no answer, we’ll continue using laws that protect content creators.

Many of these opinions are nonsensical anti-capitalist drivel.

TPP is consistency and compromise and if there’s a real better way, you better believe countries will adapt to it.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“if there’s a real better way, you better believe countries will adapt to it.”

What counts as a “better way” to you? The “better” that the corporations who yearn for things like the TPP want is pretty different than the “better” that people like me want.

Things like TPP just help to ensure that corporations will get their “better”, while the citizenry that governments are supposed to represent get the “worse” end of the stick.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Unless you’re one of those empirical people and like human experimentation, which is rather unethical when people’s livelihoods are at stake, you can literally theorize that right now

Um. Ok. Why?

Well, while you continue to think about that and have no answer, we’ll continue using laws that protect content creators

Like the DMCA? Which you bought and paid for? Then whined year after year that it doesn’t work while continuing to make it work?

Mbuna (profile) says:


First off its important to remember that the primary citizens (with the biggest voting rights) of the USA are corporations and their elites. The general population are simply 2nd class citizens (and if you don’t think this is true, then what rock have you been hiding under?). So the TPP is just a natural extension of corporate political power and regardless of whether the TPP is ratified by Congress or not, this kind of thing is not going away but will only become more pervasive. If Clinton gets elected then this kind of corporate political power will really get a head of steam under it. Watch out!

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