USTR Insists Secret, MPAA-Backed TPP Is 'Most Transparent Trade Negotiation In History'... From Hollywood Studio

from the does-anyone-believe-this-crap? dept

Honestly, it's somewhat difficult to believe that someone who works in the USTR didn't recognize that it was a bad idea to have their new boss, Michael Froman, who was once called one of the most "egregious examples" of the "revolving door" between companies and government, head out to visit two of the largest Hollywood studios just days after the IP chapter of the secretive TPP agreement was leaked, showing that it was basically Hollywood's wishlist of copyright crap. It's even more difficult to believe, given all that and given that Froman decided to go hang out with some friendly folks in Hollywood anyway, that someone at the USTR didn't think maybe, just maybe, Froman should avoid giving an interview in which he'd be asked about the leaked chapter.

But, it happened. Of course, the interview was with Variety, so maybe they figured that only Hollywood people would read it, and that the rest of the world would never catch on to the fact that Froman is either totally clueless or a blatant liar about the TPP. However, he did give an interview, while "touring Paramount's backlot" in which he said a bunch of nutty things. Here's my favorite:
He also called the talks over the trade pact “the most transparent trade negotiation in history,” noting that they have held more than 1,000 briefings on Capitol Hill, have enlisted 600 advisers for input from various groups and have invited stakeholders to address negotiators from all 12 countries, among other efforts.
Let's just say, this is pure bullshit. Extreme bullshit. Honestly, even Variety (which, as you might imagine, tends to toe the Hollywood line) seems to suggest that this claim isn't actually true. And, of course, considering that the USTR is infamously secretive, being "the most transparent in history" doesn't mean you were actually transparent at all. And, in this case, the fact that he's claiming it's "the most transparent in history" days after a chapter that no one in the public has seen during nearly four years of negotiations had to be leaked should highlight the level of bullshit that Froman is spewing.

He seems to have pulled this "most transparent" bullshit from his predecessor, Ron Kirk, who used to claim the same thing. Both are fundamentally trying to mislead. We've said it before, and we'll say it again, listening to lots of people, while not revealing what you're doing, is not transparency. It's listening. Listening may be better than not listening, but it's completely different than "transparency." Let me make this even clearer:
  • Listening: People ---- information -----> USTR
  • Transparency: USTR --- information ----> The Public
What Froman described above is about listening. They get "advice" from various stakeholders. That's not transparency. That's listening. So long as no one gets to see what crap they're negotiating "on our behalf," there's no transparency. At all. The only time this negotiation had any transparency was when Wikileaks finally released the IP chapter which the USTR should have and could have done years ago.

The other bit of bullshit in the interview was his misleading response to the claim by some that TPP is like SOPA. Now, I should be clear that we've avoided making that comparison, because there is a different set of issues here. And Froman used those differences to try to discredit all criticism of TPP:
“For example, as I understand it, I wasn’t around for it, (the Stop Online Piracy Act) was about blocking rogue Internet sites from accessing the Internet from the United States. There is nothing in the Trans Pacific Partnership, zero, that has anything to do with that,” he said.
But "blocking rogue websites" isn't what's making people make the comparison between TPP and SOPA. It's two things: (1) a backroom deal negotiated in secret with no input from the public which (2) includes basically a wishlist from Hollywood. The fact that the two wishlists are not identical is not really the point, but it's the point Froman chose to focus on, because he's trying to mislead the public.

Froman continues to demonstrate that he has no business in the role he's in:
“Our goal through these trade negotiations is to make sure we are raising the standard of protection around the world, for artists and the people who support them,” he said.
Except that's not supposed to be the goal at all, and the fact that he thinks it is makes him clearly unqualified for his job. Remember that the TPP is supposed to be about free trade, yet here he is admitting that his actual agenda is increasing protectionism. Second, as anyone who knows anything about intellectual property knows, "raising the standard of protection" has been shown repeatedly to be rather harmful to creators and the public. And, again, the entire purpose of copyright law is supposed to be about promoting progress for the public. It would appear that Froman doesn't know this. And yet he's in charge of negotiating this thing? Really?

This is the reason why transparency matters. Because when you take someone who doesn't understand intellectual property at all, such as Froman, and tell him to negotiate a trade agreement in which the only people he shares the negotiating text with are maximalists, all he hears is how they have to "raise" standards, even as most of the world has realized that the "standards" are already way too high and tremendously damaging to the economy and innovation.

Either way, this whole situation is incredible. You have the USTR, just days after the secret treaty that was written with the help of Hollywood's lobbyists is leaked out, declaring that it's the most transparent in history despite the fact that, if he had his way, none of the public would have seen it, and saying so while touring Hollywood studios. The USTR is either extremely confident that no one cares about trade agreements, or a large segment of the staff there is profoundly clueless. Or maybe it's both.

SOPA was taken down because it was a backroom deal and a Hollywood wishlist, without respect for the public. ACTA went down for the same reason. If Froman doesn't want the same thing to happen to TPP, he might want to learn a thing or two about intellectual property and what transparency means. Because as of right now, he appears to be setting himself up to be roadkill for another internet uprising.

Filed Under: acta, michael froman, sopa, tpp, transparency, ustr
Companies: disney, mpaa, paramount


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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 21 Nov 2013 @ 12:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    OK, so apply it to my $100 movie.


    Alec? Is that you?

    Easy enough, though. We've got a ton of articles on the site detailing tons of innovative business models for content creators that don't require protectionist policies.

    Our IP system recognizes an exclusive use which creates the financial incentive for creators to promote such arts and sciences.

    But that's entirely different than "fruits of one's labor." It also includes LIMITS on those exclusive rights, and the PURPOSE of those exclusive rights is solely to promote the progress of knowledge. But you knew that and left that out for... what? Because you think people don't know?

    Way to ignore the fact that the initial innovation may not have been funded had there not been a period of exclusivity for the creators to recoup their investment.

    If you knew anything about innovation you'd know this is an easily solvable problem. But you don't. You just try to write the laws that pretend you do. First, it assumes that you need exclusivity to make money. You don't: unless you're a moron. Second, it assumes that the only way to get investment is if you have the exclusive. That's not true. I didn't "ignore" it. I just know it's not a big deal.

    Seriously? Four companies come up with precisely the same formula within days of each other?


    It was a hypothetical. Get a dictionary. But, again, if you knew anything about anything, you'd know that simultaneous invention is extremely common. And, under our current system you prefer to FUCK OVER everyone who didn't come in first, even if their solution is better.

    Got an example? I see products like Lipitor, Crestor and Pravachol all co-existing to reduce cholesterol.

    Strawman. Totally unrelated to the point I was making. But do you seriously not know of companies that went out of business because of patent infringement claims? Oy. Please: stay the fuck away from our laws. You're completely ignorant of the real world.

    I never said a monopoly was needed.

    And yet you support monopolies. Clue for you: a patent and a copyright are a monopoly. By definition you ARE saying monopolies are needed. Because you don't understand economics.

    Maybe true for some types of research, not at all true for copyright which is what you usually are wailing about.


    You used patents as your example. So that's what I was discussing. Copyright is an even *easier* battle, because the business models are even more obvious, as we've been detailing for over a decade.

    I'd argue that the US is the most robust, innovated IP intensive economy on earth. While our IP regime may be imperfect, I'd like you to cite a more innovative economy whose IP system is better.

    Correlation, not causation. Our success today is in spite of our bad IP laws. Note that as IP laws have gotten stricter, total factor productivity has continued to drop, showing that we're innovating less and less than we would be doing under other circumstances.

    Given the state of play in this country, I'd suggest that the group you assembled and the single entrepreneur you cited are the minority.

    You'd suggest, but you'd be wrong. These were some of the most successful entrepreneurs today. The guy in question has built multiple *massively* successful companies that have made a lot of people very, very well off, while providing the public tremendous benefit as well. You could learn from someone like him. But you won't, because they don't lob tons of money to DC insiders who act like bigshots.

    Plus, they probably have little if any proprietary IP of their own to protect- instead relying on the innovation of others.

    Wrong again, but nice try. If you actually worked in an innovative world you'd know that "protection" is the last thing on the mind of innovators. They know they can out compete.

    Execution matters, but so does the idea.


    Entrepreneurs know that ideas *barely* matter. The best explanation I've seen of this is from Derek Sivers: http://sivers.org/multiply but look around. Tons of other successful entrepreneurs have said the same thing. None of the top investors invest in an idea, either. They invest in people who can execute.

    And of the thousands of startups I've interacted with, I can count on ONE HAND, the number of companies whose final product was *anything* even close to the initial idea. And the only super successful company I know of who matched their initial vision to the execution is just one: Dropbox.

    The idea is something to work around, but any entrepreneur knows that ideas die when they breathe in the air of the real world. It's all about execution.

    And you are speaking to me as what…. the creator of the spectacular flop you call Step 2? Go raise a million dollars, make a movie, return the investment to your backers and make some money for yourself commensurate with your efforts. Then come back and we'll talk about competition in an IP space where enforcement and protection matter. There is absolutely nothing that you do that is subject to the corrosive effect of piracy or IP infringement. So don't presume to lecture people from the grandstands.

    I've raised over a million dollars. I didn't make a movie, but I built a successful company and my investors are quite happy. And I did it without relying on IP. At all.

    I'm not in the grandstands. I built a rather successful company -- built on content, nearly all of which is given away.

    What have you ever done?

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