Since the Senate passed Fast Track, a bill that would rush secret anti-user trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to approval by bypassing full debate, the fight now goes to the House of Representatives. The legislation (H.R. 1314) could go to the House floor for debate and a final vote as early as next week.
While TPP and TTIP proponents still lack the votes to pass the bill in the other congressional chamber, they're fiercely determined to get them. President Obama is personally calling each Congress member who's still on the fence on the issue, and is even offering special perks from the Oval Office in exchange for their vote. In the midst of this aggressive campaign to pass Fast Track, leading members of Congress have still not taken a public position on this controversial legislation.
Politico reports that House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, is the White House's "secret weapon" for its trade agenda. Even though she has voted down Fast Track in the past and has indicated that she would vote against it again, she still hasn't come out in strong opposition, all while being in a very critical position to lead undecided lawmakers from handing their authority over trade policy to the President.
Not only is she a House Leader, she represents San Francisco, a city that has long been committed to government transparency (and has itself voted against TPP and Fast Track). Her district rests right in the middle of the booming technology sector in the U.S.—an industry that continues to rely heavily on balanced copyright rules like fair use and other safeguards that are under serious threat from the TPP's restrictive copyright enforcement rules. She was one of the most vocal proponents of defending net neutrality this year, so she clearly understands the importance of keeping our digital platforms free and open.
That's why her constituents and Internet users across the country need to make sure she hears our concerns loud and clear. If Leader Pelosi were to come out against Fast Track today, that would be a strong signal for other House Democrats to follow her lead.Our Meeting with Leader Pelosi's San Francisco District Office
Yesterday, EFF and a handful of our San Francisco-based members met with Leader Pelosi's Chief of Staff in her district office to convey our concerns about the TPP and Fast Track bill. We went around the table and talked about how the digital policy provisions in the TPP would harm our rights and our businesses in a range of ways.EFF Global Policy Analyst with members after the meeting
Michael Kelly, a video game developer at Red Accent Studios, talked about how important fair use was to indie game developers. "I met with Rep. Pelosi's staff to encourage her to be a vocal opponent to granting Trade Promotion Authority to the TPP when it comes before the House this week," said Kelly. "The YouTube Renaissance of creativity and remixing that's birthed so many careers and entertained millions would be in jeopardy by the same people who tried to bring us SOPA and PIPA. We can't let that happen!" Another EFF member, Carl Noe, said "Those of us who participated [in the meeting] got a sense of how people are systematically excluded from the discussion of international trade. It's important for everyone."
We also handed them our letter from over 250 tech companies and digital rights organizations opposed to the TPP and Fast Track for containing threats to fair use, whistleblowers, and user safeguards in U.S. law. While major tech companies like Google may be in favor of Fast Track and trade agreements due to the "free flow of information" provisions, this letter shows how there are hundreds of small tech businesses that disagree with claims that these secret deals are a beneficial for small businesses or would work to promote digital innovation.
So if you are an Internet user in the U.S., please take a moment to contact your representative, tweet at Leader Pelosi and call her DC office (202-225-4965) to urge her to stand for users' rights and take a strong, public stance against the TPP Fast Track bill.Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceTrade Agreements and Digital RightsTrans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
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It's been a big few weeks for leaked trade agreements. Just when we thought we had seen all the leaked text of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), Wikileaks went ahead and published some more yesterday. And on the same day, a leaked draft of the intellectual property chapter of yet another trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was leaked by Knowledge Ecology International (KEI).
If we described TISA as a treaty you've never heard of, RCEP has been even more obscure. RCEP can be compared with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), except that rather than being driven by the United States, it is being driven by the ten-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), with the addition of their trading partners from the broader Asia-Pacific region including most notably India and China, who are absent from the TPP pact.
We might then, expect that RCEP could be the “anti-TPP”; a vehicle for countries to push back against the neo-colonial ambitions of the United States, by proposing alternative, home-grown standards on the TPP's thorniest issues such as copyright, patents, and investor protection. Some members of RCEP have indeed spoken out against the TPP because of its unbalanced promotion of strict copyright and patent laws, and some commentators have characterized RCEP and the TPP as competitors.
But based on yesterday's leaks, the promise of RCEP pushing back against the TPP is being squandered. Instead, its IP chapter is turning out as a carbon copy. The text for the chapter that South Korea proposes, which KEI rightly and succinctly describes as “terrible”, calls for many of the same provisions and more, including:
- Copyright terms of life plus 70 years.
- Prohibiting temporary copies of works in electronic form (a thoroughly misguided and anti-innovation provision that has even been erased from the TPP).
- Confining copyright limitations and exceptions to those which comply with the three-step test, which ignores exceptions, such as the quotation right, that are exempted from that test under international law.
- Remuneration rights to performers for radio airplay, which goes beyond U.S. law.
- A prohibition on the Internet retransmission of broadcasts, mirroring proposals for a Broadcast Treaty that would inhibit the free use of public domain material.
- A prohibition on trafficking in devices used to circumvent DRM, even if the circumvention is for fair use purposes.
- Inflated awards for copyright or patent infringement, by calculating damages payable for the infringing works on the assumption that they were sold at full retail market value.
- Granting ex officio authority to customs authorities that allows them to seize goods suspected of being infringing at the border, without even the need for a complaint by the claimed rightsholder.
- Criminal penalties for “commercial scale” copyright and trademark infringement, even where the infringer has not sought or made any profit from the activity.
- Criminal penalties against those who record any part of an audiovisual work in a cinema, regardless of whether the clips recorded would amount to fair use, for example because they are to be used in criticism or review.
- Suspension of the Internet accounts of repeat infringers, and censorship of bulletin boards that are “considered to seriously damage the sound use of copyrighted works” (whatever that means).
- Authorizing a fast-track process for rightsholders to obtain personal information of alleged infringers from their ISP, without a judicial order.
This draft is much worse than a previous leaked Japanese proposal that was earlier published by KEI. It's far worse than ACTA, and is even worse than the most recent leaked draft of the TPP. Far from setting up a positive alternative to the TPP, South Korea is channeling the USTR at its worst here—what on earth are they thinking? The answer may be that, having been pushed into accepting unfavorably strict copyright, patent, and trademark rules in the process of negotiating its 2012 free trade agreement with the United States, Korea considers that it would be at a disadvantage if other countries were not subject to the same restrictions.
There are other examples of this kind of vicious cycle; for example, when negotiating its FTA with the United States, Australia resisted increasing its copyright term to life plus 70 years (knowing that it would derive no benefit from doing so), before eventually capitulating. Now Australia (along with Chile and Singapore, both of which were also forced into increasing their copyright terms in similar circumstances), are amongst those pushing extended copyright terms to other countries in the TPP. (We know this from the first leaked text of the TPP IP chapter, which reveals them as proponents of a life plus 70 year term.)
Since RCEP is shaping up as even more extreme than the TPP, one might well ask with resignation whether concluding a trade agreement with balanced IP rules is actually impossible. Surprisingly, it isn't. Consider the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership [PDF] (TPSEP), yet another trade agreement in the so-called “noodle bowl” of bilateral and multilateral Asian FTAs. If the TPSEP sounds like a relative of the TPP, that's because it is. In fact, it's the predecessor of that broader agreement, that was concluded in 2006 between Chile, New Zealand, Brunei, and Singapore, and remains in force between those countries.
For those of us used to FTAs that ratchet up standards of copyright, patent and trademark protection, the TPSEP is somewhat remarkable. It explicitly acknowledges “the need to achieve a balance between the rights of right holders and the legitimate interests of users and the community with regard to protected subject matter,” but goes further than this to give some specific examples of user-friendly policies that countries should be permitted to adopt, including:
- Respecting the first sale doctrine, even for works sold across borders.
- Prohibiting companies from removing your fair use rights through small print in license agreements.
- Allowing users to bypass DRM for fair use purposes.
These are the kind of pro-user rules that could have differentiated RCEP from the TPP, if its members were bold enough to think outside the box. And since RCEP is still at an earlier stage of discussion, they still can: Korea's proposed rules are an opening gambit, not an agreed text.
Unfortunately, the process of negotiation of the RCEP is just as closed as that of the TPP, which makes it the wrong place for IP rules altogether. But now that the text has been leaked and it has been revealed to be so atrocious, we can begin to build pressure for the negotiating countries to open up the process. If, heaven forbid, the TPP eventually passes—and perhaps even more so if it doesn't—the Asia-Pacific region needs to ensure that its trade regime doesn't lock in restrictive and punitive copyright, patent, and trademark rules.Related Issues: InternationalTrade Agreements and Digital Rights
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Over the past several years we’ve covered a growing trend among governments in the use of Internet blocking, filtering, and full shutdowns to control free expression within their borders. Many of these “Internet blackouts” have drawn global attention when deployed during times of geopolitical unrest: For example, China frequently shuts down access to Internet services in the autonomous regions of Tibet and Xinjiang in response to protests, attracting international disapproval. Ill-fated Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak shut off Egypt’s Internet in 2011 during the peak of the Arab Spring protests in an attempt to block the communications networks used by protesters—a move that proved to be ineffective in quelling changing political tides in the country. In the United States, members of Congress have discussed the idea of an “Internet kill switch” that would grant the president authority to shut off Internet access during an emergency—an idea that, thankfully, has never gotten very far.
This worrying trend appears to have caught on among countries with poor or limited Internet connectivity in recent months, who are using Internet blockages and filtering as a means of political control despite the limited use of Internet and mobile technologies by their citizens. Each of the following cases highlights a unique set of causes, stakeholders, and outcomes of Internet shutdowns particular to nations that have poor or limited Internet connectivity, and in any instance, where the deployment of such controls violates the right to free expression. But in contexts where media access and options for alternative information sources are limited, blocking Internet access has an outsized effect.Nauru
The tiny Pacific island of Nauru has attracted international attention after issuing a ban on several Internet services including a temporary ban on Facebook, which it says it will lift as soon as the “necessary protection mechanisms" are put in place to restrict “explicit, obscene or pornographic material” online. In a press release announcing the ban, it claimed the decision was months in the making. In addition to banning Facebook, the government will be permanently blocking access to sites it claims display pornography, especially those featuring children.
Yet while the restrictions are ostensibly in the name of protecting Nauru’s Christian values, opposition members of Parliament claim they are really designed to prevent the free flow of information about asylum seekers currently detained on Nauru, who sought to seek refuge in Australia. Currently, about 1,000 asylum seekers are being held in detention centers in Nauru under an agreement with Australia, which has paid Nauru almost $29 million in visa fees to keep them on the island. The refugees have reported deplorable conditions in detainment: poor medical treatment has led to the deterioration of their physical and mental health, pregnant women have been forced to create makeshift toilets and wear men's clothes, and women and children have undergone violent sexual assault.
Under recently-passed amendments to section 244A of Nauru’s Criminal Code, the asylum seekers could face jail time for protesting their conditions if their statements are deemed “likely to threaten national defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health.” The UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, David Kaye, criticized the law by saying it could “unduly restrict” free expression.
Nauru has made other moves recently to restrict the flow of information from the island: Local news reports have been heavily restricted by the imposition of an $8,000 application fee for any journalist seeking a press visa to report from Nauru. According to former President Sprent Dabwido, this reflects paranoia by Nauru’s current president about independent media scrutiny: “We’ve seen what he’s done to our local media by taking away its independence and turning it into his personal mouthpiece,” he told the Guardian. “When he finds he can’t do that with outside media, he refuses them entry, or simply won’t respond to their telephone inquiries.”
The effect of these measures has made Facebook a particularly important element of Nauru’s media landscape, and an important source for obtaining and disseminating news on the island. In response, a Facebook spokesperson issued a statement saying, “We believe that restricting access to a free and open internet deprives people of important economic and social opportunities and choices, and hope that access will be restored soon.” A group of 11 human rights and advocacy organizations also called on the Nauruan government to restore full access to the open Internet and to provide an adequate remedy for the blocking of Internet services.Burundi
The East African nation of Burundi began blocking access to certain Internet services as early as April 2015 in response to violent protests that followed the announcement that President Pierre Nkurunziza would seek a third term in office. Beginning on April 28, journalists and users reported trouble accessing WhatsApp, Viber, Twitter, Tango, and Facebook over their cell phones, though these services remained available over Wi-Fi and fixed line Internet services. An anonymous telecoms source told the APF that telecommunications regulator ARCT ordered operators to block mobile access to social networks and messaging services.
Though the ban on services is only partial, it targets the majority of Burundi’s Internet users who overwhelmingly access the Internet over their mobile devices. Still, access to the Internet is only available to 1.3% of Burundi’s population, according to the ITU’s 2013 figures. Potentially more damaging were attacks and threats made against five radio stations and one newspaper in Burundi, reportedly in an attempt to prevent news of the protests from spreading. Some of the attacks on radio stations were from pro- and anti-government protesters seeking to silence the voices of media outlets they see as oppositional to their political beliefs, though the involvement of a regulatory body indicates some level of government involvement.
In response to the attacks, a group of Burundian journalists, media directors, and foreign diplomats marched on World Press Freedom Day in solidarity with their colleagues. The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the attacks, and Salim Ahmed Salim, former prime minister of neighboring country Tanzania, called on President Nkurunziza to remove the restrictions on the media and Internet. Advocacy group, Access, also called on UN Special Rapporteurs Maina Kiai, Faith Pansy Tlakula, and David Kaye to address the growing use of network interference in Burundi and other countries over the past several months by declaring Internet shutdowns to be a violation of the right to freedom of expression.Yemen
Yemen’s already-weak communications infrastructure has been overtaxed due to frequent attacks and violence in the country, leading to increasingly-frequent Internet blackouts as the situation becomes more dire. Yemen has a centralized and outdated infrastructure with only one government provider, making it especially vulnerable. Beginning in early April 2015, we saw reports of significant disruptions to access and outages of the Djibouti cable (one of two submarine fiber cables providing Internet to Yemen). The outages were limited in duration—the first one only 90 minutes—indicating that, unlike the previous two cases, the blackouts are more likely due to power or system failures rather than purposeful attacks.
In early May, the Public Telecommunication Establishment reported its stock of diesel was depleted and that it anticipated telephone lines and Internet outages. The Post and Telecommunications Union head said Aden, Lahj, Al Dale, and Abyan would be the first cities to experience a complete communication blackout. As of mid-May, phone and Internet traffic was down by over 30%, and the number of peak-time Internet users dropped by 60%; both of these numbers continue to grow. Internet and telecommunications services were cut entirely in Crater and Mualla among other districts.
Finally, in late May, users in Yemen reported limited or no access to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube raising fears that the websites may be blocked—though it’s unclear whether this is due to a technical failure or censorship. Access to Facebook and YouTube was available in some regions while not in others, but Twitter could be reached only through a VPN nationwide. TeleYemen confirmed they are not responsible for blocking content, while some users have expressed fears the sites are being blocked by the Saudi government or Houthi rebels (though these appear to be rumors).
As in Nauru, this may have a negative effect on journalists’ ability to cover events in Yemen, as well as the capacity of groups to document abuses of human rights, as media have come to rely on the social media accounts of local activists in areas where they cannot be physically. Given the dangerous situation on the ground, this has the potential to result in a near-information blackout in the country.
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by Stephen Lendman
Kiev's junta is an illegitimate US-installed putschist regime infested with extremist Nazi lunatics.
Last April, it launched naked aggression on Donbass - with full US support and encouragement.
Dirty war without mercy continues. Kiev systematically breached three ceasefire agreements unilaterally.
It blames victims for its high crimes. It's murdered thousands of Donbass noncombatant men, women and children. It deliberately targets them.
Western leaders able to intervene responsibly turn a blind eye to its worst atrocities. In March, Ukraine's parliament passed legislation calling for international peacekeepers (foreign troops from countries it OKs) deployed in Donbass - to aid its lawless aggression.
The measure breached Minsk II. It called for OSCE monitoring, not foreign troops likely from countries allied with Kiev, if authorized.
Ahead of the G-7 June 7 and 8 summit in Germany, Ukraine's parliament adopted a number of controversial amendments to its March law authorizing foreign troops on its territory (from countries it approves) intended for Donbass - masquerading as peacekeepers.
Deploying them assures preventing peace. Kiev's law prohibits troops from countries it designates "aggressor states" - nations opposing its dirty war on its own people.
Normandy four leaders discussed possible peacekeepers. Putin said authorizing them requires approval by both parties to the conflict.
Donbass militia leaders reject what's not authorized by Minsk II - especially with Kiev and Washington maneuvering to have forces from Kiev allies, none from nations opposing its regime.
Russian lower house State Duma CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Ties with Compatriots Leonid Slutsky said:
"Minsk-2 did not provide for the participation of even peacekeepers in the settlement of the Ukrainian internal conflict. The law can only provoke an increase in the number of foreign mercenaries of the Kiev regime for suppressing the resistance of militias and further conflict escalation."
Kiev systematically breached Minsk II legislatively and by its continued "shelling of the civilian population of Donbass," Slutsky added.
He blasted Poroshenko saying his hostile statements and uncompromising positions "are a front for a military solution to the" conflict.
He repeated what he said earlier. "Kiev authorities are more afraid of peace than war, on which both corruption and the current chaos in Ukraine are blamed" on victims.
State Duma Defense Committee member Frants Kintsevich said "(t)he bill passed by (Kiev's parliament) is a dummy, sheer spin and propaganda. It is doomed to fail as a legal document."
He can't "imagine a situation in which the United Nations would support the deployment of foreign troops in Ukraine."
Russia will veto a Security Council resolution. Its "fundamental position is that (so-called peacekeepers in Donbass) would further split the country and is contrary to the Minsk agreements."
The measure's provision saying EU authorization alone is needed is "meaningless," Klintsevich stressed.
"Western leaders will never take this step as they realize their countries (may) become directly involved in the conflict on the side of Kiev with all the ensuing consequences" - another possible European war at least most EU nations want no part of.
Washington is very comfortable letting forces from other countries do its fighting and dying. Don't expect EU countries to let their young men and women die for America on the battlefields of Ukraine.
Expect possible resistance from their officers and rank-and-file soldiers if they're asked to do so.
Washington overstepped in Ukraine. Its imperial strategy is foundering on the rocks of its hubris. What's ahead remains to be seen. What's sure is continued conflict.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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