FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bringing SOPA to the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The machinery to dominate global intellectual property by American fiat was further tightened by the announcement of Robert Holleyman’s as deputy US trade representative.  President Obama’s announcement is just another reminder what sources of inspiration are governing the drive by Washington to control the downloading and dissemination of information via the Trans-Pacific Partnership.   After all, Holleyman was a former lobbyist of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the bill introduced by US Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Tx) to gift US law enforcement authorities with the means to combat copyright infringements.

Indeed, Holleyman’s own blurb as an author for The Huffington Post considers him as “one of the 50 most influential people in the intellectual property world”, an individual who “was instrumental in putting into place the global policy framework that today protects software under copyright law.”  Such is the nature of mislabelled internationalism – Washington’s policy by another name.

Holleyman has also been heavily involved as a former president of the Business Software Alliance, a body representing the main software vendors including Apple, IBM, and Microsoft. Through the consortium, Holleyman unintentionally put the problems of SOPA, and its sister legislation, PROTECT-IP, in the bright spotlight.  He found himself fighting, at least for a time, a losing battle.  Protest against them was extensive, with January 18, 2012 featuring the “largest online protest in history”.[1]  Congress took heed, shelving the bills.  The vendors pondered the next move.

SOPA’s reach would have been global, enabling US law enforcement the means to target websites and individuals outside its jurisdiction. The carceral provisions of the bill were also hefty – five year prison terms for downloading unauthorised content.

It would have also been a rather formidable mechanism to insinuate censorship into the Internet.  The legislation would allow the content provider or the US Justice Department to block sites hosting material supposedly in breach of copyright.  Having such a provision would effectively overburden internet service providers to err on the side of caution and “over-block”[2] material.  If ever you want to enshrine censorship, a fine way of doing so is frightening the hosts into censoring themselves.

The secret negotiations of the TPP have proven to be a feast of select company.  The negotiators themselves, such as Stefan Selig[3], nominee for under-secretary for international trade at the Commerce Department, have a direct line to the Bank of America.  Selig’s accounts have been inflated to the tune of $9.1 million in bonus pay and $5.1 million in incentive pay.  Happy is the bank that can sue for diminished assets and target governments in courts of law.

The clubbable ones are the software demons who have been “cleared” to have briefings, some 700 “stakeholders”.  The “cleared advisors”[4] also represent groups such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Entertainment Software Association, and the Recording Industry Association of America.

While the premise of having such vendors involved is ostensibly to protect innovation, the converse is true.  The world of innovation does not matter to those who claim they have the ideas and want to protect them at cost. That is a recipe for sloppiness and envy.

The anti-democratic slant in the TPP process has also impressed itself upon observers.  The press, and even members of Congress, have been kept at bay.  Till parts of the treaty were published by WikiLeaks, elected officials could only view the document on visiting the Trade Representative Office.  They would not be able[5] to reproduce or transcribe it.

While SOPA and its twin PIPA were shelved indefinitely, the Obama administration has decided shop in other forums to enforce some of their provisions.  One way of doing so is through the faulty premise of free trade, which is simply another way of making some trade freer than others.  The American firm features prominently in that guise of freedom.

Aspects of the leaked intellectual property chapter of the TPP so far indicate a model with SOPA trimmings.  Provisions, for example, holding ISPs liable for hosting copyright infringement, have been preserved.  The life of certain, corporate-owned copyrights will also be extended.  In other words, this is SOPA by stealth, a process that “could not [be] achieved through an open democratic process.”[6]

The fact that the Obama administration has also sought to sideline Congress in the debate is indicative of that.  As Henry Farrell[7] observed, “The United States appears to be using the non-transparent Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations as a deliberate end run around Congress on intellectual property, to achieve a presumably unpopular set of policy goals.”  Senate Democrats have been mindful of their shrinking role, and have blocked the president’s attempt to obtain “fast-track authorisation”.

The effect of such authorisation would give the administration scope to limit congressional consultation while using its prerogative powers.  Congress would become, in effect, a chamber of marionettes.  Appointments such as Holleyman’s show little change of heart away from that policy.  The copyright vanguard, along with the dance of secrecy, is digging its heels in.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail