We've written plenty of stories about the TTIP
(Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership) agreement being worked on between the US and the EU. Think of it as the companion to the TPP, which covers the US and a variety of countries around the Pacific ocean. Like the TPP, the US has demanded extreme levels of secrecy around the negotiations (in the past, the US negotiating body, the USTR, has admitted that the more the public is aware of the details, the less likely
they are to support the agreement). And while there have been reports out of the EU arguing that negotiators there are more willing to be more open about the negotiations, so far, the US has not allowed it. This has resulted in some crazy situations including secretive "reading rooms"
where politicians are carefully guarded if they look at the current drafts -- and where they're not allowed to bring any device or copy anything from the documents.
Now, Greenpeace has leaked a bunch of the TTIP documents
... and also set up their own "reading room"
which mocks the secrecy of the current reading rooms, by making it very, very transparent:
As for the contents revealed, it's pretty much what everyone suspected. Most of the focus, so far, is on details showing that the US has been pressuring the EU to loosen various consumer and environmental protections in the EU. While it hasn't received as much attention, the leak also does suggest problems for digital rights
, mainly by giving telcos much more power. And while the "intellectual property" chapter does not appear to be included, one of the leaks is the "tactical state of play"
document. This document isn't part of the negotiating text, but a general summary on where things are... and it's fairly revealing on a variety of topics, including intellectual property.
In the discussion on the intellectual property agreement, it notes that at the latest negotiation, the US refused to put forth "concrete proposals" on issues such as DRM, but the report notes that these are being pushed strongly by "rights holders." The EU, apparently, is nervous about what kind of language it will eventually see from the US. The US, in response, apparently told the EU negotiators that this would be a different kind of intellectual property chapter from the TPP:
A positive feature of the twelfth round of IP discussions was the US submission, for the first time,
of some texts on relatively consensual areas (international treaties and general provisions).
However, the US remains unwilling to table, at this stage, concrete proposals on more sensitive
offensive interests that have been expressed by some of its right holders or that are explicitly
referred to in its TPA (for instance on patents, on technical protection measures and digital rights
management or on enforcement).
When confronted with the EU warning that bringing sensitive proposals that would require changes
in EU law to the table – and doing it at a late stage of the negotiation – may have a negative impact
on stakeholders and has very limited chances of being accepted, the US reiterated its understanding
that the IPR chapter should not be a standard (TPP type) text, but also insisted that such a departure
from its “model” creates some difficulties in terms of addressing the demands included in the IPR
related sections of its TPA.
The report also notes that Congress' unwillingness to pass laws to stop patent trolls or in support of (awful) broadcast rights, public performance rights and resale rights, may be an issue, since all three are important to EU rightsholders. We've covered all three issues at various points in time, and all three involve basically expanding copyright law in dangerous ways that will further limit the public's rights. In this case, it looks like it's the EU that's pushing more strongly for them, which is too bad. The public performance rights have the most forward progress in the US right now, with the push to ratify the Beijing Treaty
, but hopefully that's an area where legislative indifference kills a horrifically bad idea.
In short, it appears that there are a lot of competing interests on both sides of the Atlantic around the intellectual property chapter, but both sides
appear to be focused almost entirely on the protectionist, anti-innovation, anti-public interests of specific rights holders and how to make them happy. There's basically no discussion of how all of this impacts the public.
That's not too surprising, but it also shows why they've worked so hard to keep these documents from being seen by the public. The TTIP agreement was already way behind the TPP agreement, and it's quite doubtful that a final agreement will be reached before the new US administration is in place, which could result in some pretty massive changes in terms of what the White House is demanding. But, as of right now, the agreement looks like yet another mess where lobbyists try to divvy up the spoils in taking things away from the public.