The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement ("TPP") is a free trade agreement currently being negotiated by nine countries: The United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Although the TPP covers a wide range of issues, this site focuses on the TPP's intellectual property (IP) chapter.

The TPP suffers from a serious lack of transparency, threatens to impose more stringent copyright without public input, and pressures foreign governments to adopt unbalanced laws.

Many of the same special interests that pushed for legislation like SOPA and PIPA have special access to this forum—including privileged access to the text as well as US negotiators.

Excessive copyright rights and enforcement adversely affect that ability of creators to create content, the ability of technology companies to make innovative products, and that ability of users to use content in new ways.

Why you should care about the TPP

Problems with the TPP Negotiation Process

  • The TPP needs transparency. The TPP countries have not released any texts or negotiating positions to the public. The only information the public has about the contents of the TPP intellectual property chapter is from a leaked draft US proposal from February 2011.
  • The TPP needs public input. The TPP intellectual property chapter isn’t limited to provisions on trade and tariffs—it would implement substantive provisions of copyright law, which affects users, technology companies, and creators. Despite this, the US hasn’t meaningfully tried to inform or engage the public. Only large companies—not public interest advocates—are allowed to view and influence the US’s negotiating positions.

Building Balanced Copyright in the TPP

It’s hard to know the full extent of the harms the TPP’s copyright provisions may pose to the public interest, because the public has been kept in the dark. Based on a US draft that leaked in February 2011, Public Knowledge can identify a number of proposals that would have adverse consequences for consumers and should be removed from the TPP or modified. The actual text of the TPP may be far worse, but it is impossible to know until the text is released to the public.

  • The TPP should not protect incidental copies. The TPP would provide copyright owners power over “buffer copies”—the small copies that computers need to make in the process of moving data around. With buffer copy protection, many more transactions would require a license from the copyright owner and many more uses would expose consumers to liability.
  • The TPP should not prohibit breaking digital locks for legal uses. The TPP would prevent users from breaking digital locks (known as DRM), even if users intend to make non-infringing uses of the protected work.
  • The TPP should not criminalize small-scale copyright infringement. The TPP could make downloading music a crime. Police could seize a computer as a device that aids this offense and send the end-user to jail for downloading. The TPP’s criminal rules go beyond US law and would impose similar rules on other countries.
  • The TPP should not kick people off the internet. The TPP would encourage ISPs to institute measures like “three strikes”—which kicks users off their internet connection after three infringement accusations—and deep packet inspection.
  • The TPP should include limitations and exceptions to copyright. The leaked proposal has no limitations and exceptions, to uses such as fair use, use by libraries preservation, and use of works in accessible formats by the disabled. The draft only has a placeholder where these provisions may be added later. The public has received no assurance that the TPP now includes limitations and exceptions necessary to balance the interests of users and copyright owners.

TPP Timeline

The US entered into negotiations for a regional trans-pacific trade agreement in March 2008. As of mid-2012, there have been 13 rounds of secretive negotiations, 5 leaks of proposed text, and very little involvement of the public.

Everything we know about the TPP, we know from leaks. The negotiators have not once willingly given the public, or public interest organizations, any information.

The schedule for negotiation has recently accelerated in order to bring the agreement to a close. The process has become more and more closed—stakeholder forums, which were more common toward the beginning of the process, have now been replaced with “stakeholder tables” – a table staffed by interested stakeholders to which negotiators may or may not go. The negotiators are also holding off-the-record "intersessional" meetings between official sessions.