After seven years of basically secret negotiations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is starting the rounds of getting signed.

I don't think it should.

There are a few reasons for this, but I consider them rather big ones. I may not be the clearest in explaining it, but I still think it is important because this is a really big agreement that affects most of the world and it doesn't benefit anyone besides corporations. It doesn't help creators like me, it doesn't help consumers. It takes the general populace into spending more and more money just to feed corporations.

The EFF has a really good set of pages on this also. They say a lot of good things about this, not to mention:

Secrecy

I've been watching TPP since 2009 or so. The one thing that I noticed was that only companies and governments were involved in the process. There didn't appear to be anyone representing the common person, the folks who aren't obscenely rich or have multi-billion dollar companies behind them. Attempts to get advocates involved had failed, meetings were kept secret, and the only reason we know about half of what went on was through Wikikeaks and other whistle-blowers.

While you may not agree with Wikileaks, I think they had served an important part about telling people about things they should know.

I don't think something that affects a significant amount of manufacturing, trade, and deals across the entire globe should be done in secret. You know why? Because politics should be in the open. We should be able to debate and discuss it. More importantly, if companies are allowed to represent their interests in a binding treaty, why aren't the consumers?

Probably the biggest argument is that it would be embroiled in massive debate and would never get done. It is far easier to make a decision when the people who are harmed by it aren't even allowed to know about it.

Intellectual Property

Most of the terms in the TPP, I can't really talk about. However, intellectual property is one of them. You can find a decent summary of those terms on Wikipedia.

For this, I'll point to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I continue to feel that the DMCA is a horrible thing. Most people don't even encounter it, mainly because they don't realize that it affects them.

TPP basically continues it. If there is a vulnerability in Windows 10 that lets someone download all of your personal data? You can't investigate or report it because it is protected by DRM. If Sony decided to install a root-kit on their CDs that lets people hack your computer (they did), guess what? It's illegal to figure it out.

I really hate the inability to look at the world. Keurig (the coffee pod place) and HP have DRM controls on their coffee pods (it reads codes) and ink cartridges purely to ensure you have to pay full price for coffee and ink. In effect, it is used to prevent people from making cheaper alternatives, which also means it attacks the Maker movement, which is something I really think is important.

DMCA says that if I make a video and post it on YouTube, but it involves EDM dancing to music, it can get pulled down for infringement. Or companies can use it to take down critical reviews or comments about their products. Or high school teachers can't really show clips of broadcasts because it violates rules. I did an entire presentation on the Hero's Journey for college using clips from Star Wars; these days, that is illegal even though it made the point.

TPP doesn't make that better. It makes it universal. It makes a concept of preventing competition, discourse, and debate illegal because it would harm business.

Creativity

I have also made it clear that I dislike the business practices of Disney and the Tolkien Estate (among others) because they do everything to protect their property so they don't have competition.

Creativity is important but it is also based on the stuff already there. How many authors started with fan-fiction or scribbling their favorite character on a piece of paper. The better ones sell at least the art at con shows, something that "steals" money from companies.

It looks like, and I honestly can't read that much, TPP basically gives a much more forceful prevention of that but also makes the punishment far more severe. So, the people who got started creating fan creations are not preventing others from the doing the same.

And maybe a show's creator doesn't mind it, but what about the production company? Or the distributor?

First Sale

Article 4.2 provides that rights holders may authorize or prohibit parallel imports.

In March 2013, the United States Supreme Court decided in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. that the first-sale doctrine applies to works manufactured outside the United States, establishing the legality of parallel imports.

The above is a bit hard to explain. Basically, someone bought something in one country where it was cheaper and brought it into another country to sell it for less than the same product was being sold for a much higher price. The supreme court say that was acceptable because we have the first-sale doctrine which says once you buy it, the person who makes it can't control it anymore.

There appears to be a lot of things going against the first-sale doctrine in this treaty? Why? Because companies don't like it. Used car sales, used book sales, selling back college books? Those are all first-sale.

In the computer field (after an Autocad ruling), we are seeing that? The push for cloud services such as Office 365 and Google Docs? Those aren't really there to make your life easier, they are there to get a steady income money from you. Photoshop costs $250 and you used to buy a used copy for $50. Now, you must get it online at the wonderful price of $40 a month ($480/year).

I still remember when I was young and I heard an author ranting about how all second-hand bookstores should be closed down because he was losing money on the sales. That's first sale.

Ebay? Yeah, almost entirely first-sale doctrine and parallel imports. Same with half the stuff I buy on Amazon (new chargers for the computer and phones).

Do you know that most software costs outside of the US are much higher? This prevents you from buying something in the US and selling it. Which means the prices can stay high because there is no competition. Want the reverse? Drug prices outside of the US are much less, sometimes by orders of magnitude. But we pay more because we are locked into the market.

The above stuff hits me the hardest with movies. I am frequently disconnected from the Internet. When we want to watch a movie, pulling it off the DVD is great, but DVDs are fragile and easily broken. Netflix works unless Mediacom decides to make it slower (the whole Net Neutrality thing) or they decide that I have to pay an extra $50/month because I exceeded bandwidth watching shows. DVDs don't have that problem, but then I can only play them on authorized devices that have poor remotes, UI, or don't work with modern hardware. If I want to put it on my phone to occupy the boys in line? Nope, DRM and illegal.

Again, TPP just continues that. And makes the punishment worse. That doesn't help us, that helps profits.

With regard to copyright, the TPP requires that signatories establish “term of protection of a work (including a photographic work), performance, or phonogram” of: 70 years following the death of a natural person; for a non-natural person the term is “not less than 95 years from the end of the calendar year of the first authorized publication of the work, performance of phonogram.” “Failing such authorized publication within 25 years from the creation of the work, performance, or phonogram, not less than 120 years from the end of the calendar year of creation.” This language is duplicated only in the Oman-US FTA (2006).

I hate this one so much. I don't think a century is reasonable protection. I think 20-30 years is pushing it. My main reasons is that mean you don't have to create anything new. You have years and years that prevents even similiar items from being created, new versions of it. Half of Disney's movies are from the public domain, but they won't give up the rights themselves.

I think a generation past someone's death is reasonable, not a lifetime.

And yes, that applies to me. I asked SMWM if she would be willing to let me expire my copyrights 28 years after I died. You know why? I can't do it. The only way I could come close is to have "the intent is to release…" or create an entire foundation not to let people access what I create.

Why? Because I want to be read. I want people to see what I've made and maybe have it touch their lives. Not to have it tied back where it is most profitable for someone or (in almost every other case) dropped on the floor to be forgotten forever.

TPP just makes that worse.

Public Domain

I think public domain is important for our culture. It isn't just stories that Disney turned into movies (Snow White, Cinderella, Peter Pan), but all the things that have gone into who we as a culture are. The Sony Bono Act just made things worse by starving public domain to protect corporate interests and TPP just seems to be making it even worse to get those culturally-important things into everyone's hands instead of using them as perpetual piggy banks.

I feel that all the acts of creativity that would have gone into public domain is a terrible loss.

Open Source

I'm an open-source developer. I strongly believe in the movement because it has brought us things like Firefox, Chrome, Libreoffice. One of the biggest is that open-source can be reviewed for flaws. It can be trusted with far less effort because it is open.

Prohibit Open Source Mandates: With no good rationale, the agreement would outlaw a country from adopting rules for the sale of software that include mandatory code review or the release of source code. This could inhibit countries from addressing pressing information security problems, such as widespread and massive vulnerability in closed-source home routers.

(From the EFF site.)

Shadowrun and Snow Crash

I marked this as Shadowrun because the idea of mega-corporations have a foundation in deal likes this? You know who the bad guys are in those fictions? Corporations because all they do is use. I'm not saying a game or a book is right, but it shouldn't be a how-to guide.

In some ways, TPP is basically companies making a crime to ruin their profits. And that sounds just like Shadowrun to me.

My own stories talk about the same thing, the cost per second for housing in Casting Call is one example. It bothers me, mainly because I think that is what is going to happen.

Deals like these should benefit people, not simply make more money, remove rights, make trying to find cheaper alternatives criminal, and stifle creativity.

2016-02-03