Social media companies, entrepreneurs, investors, and Internet user groups speak out about copyright dangers in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement

With secretive TPP talks intensifying in Ottawa Canada, business leaders have sent a letter raising concerns about how the TPP could force online service providers to act as Internet cops, raising costs and potentially putting smaller providers out of business.

TPP Protest Canberra 140528

Image: Tim Beshara

A large international coalition representing over 100 web companies and Internet user groups are speaking out about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would force ISPs and web providers to police the Internet.

International names such as Wikimedia, reddit, O’Reilly Media, and BoingBoing have been joined by Australian voices iiNet, Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), the Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) and the Australian Digital Alliance (ADA). This comes as secretive TPP talks intensify at the Delta Hotel in downtown Ottawa, due to run until 11th July.

The TPP is a ‘free trade’ deal being negotiated by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Peru, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States. The changes to copyright proposed by the TPP would restrict citizens’ and businesses’ ability to innovate, both on and offline.

The group has set out their concerns in a joint letter which focuses on the tough new burdens the TPP would impose on telecom and web service providers. The letter highlights how the TPP would “force service providers throughout the region to monitor and police their users' actions on the Internet, pass on automated takedown notices, block websites and disconnect Internet users." The letter was put together by the Fair Deal network of civil society groups and businesses working to reform the copyright provisions in the Intellectual Property chapter of the TPP.

The letter will be handed to negotiators at a face-to-face meeting in Ottawa today.

Jon Lawrence, Executive Officer of Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) says, “Australia’s experience with implementing these types of provisions has not been good. The signing of the Korean-Australian Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) was accompanied by the news that we would have to legislate to overturn the High Court Decision in the iiNet case, effectively offshoring our domestic IP policy. Meanwhile we still have not properly implemented the protections for organisations excluded from the safeharbour scheme allowed under the AUSFTA, the subject of a 2011 review by the Attorney-General’s Department, which has yet to be released’.

“Locking these provisions into a 12 party ‘free trade’ agreement is binding us to bad policy and removing our ability to deal with future challenges” says Trish Hepworth, Executive Officer of the Australian Digital Alliance. “The internet is ever-changing, ever evolving. We need the flexibility to respond effectively to changes in technology and business practices. These prescriptive, overly-bureaucratic provisions will lock us into a rigid system that is already showing signs of irrelevance”.

“We know from leaked documents that the TPP will have an enormously harmful impact on our everyday lives,” said OpenMedia Executive Director Steve Anderson. “Under the TPP whole families could be kicked offline, Internet costs will rise, and online free expression will be seriously undermined. It’s profoundly undemocratic for TPP leaders to lock out citizens, while allowing secretive industry lobbyists to write rules that will harm Internet users and potentially put many Canadian telecom and web service providers out of business. It’s high time for Stephen Harper and other TPP leaders to open up this whole process and enable citizens to finally have a say.”

Tim Bray, a Canadian software developer, founder of two companies, and co-inventor of XML, which is foundational to the Internet, said: “I’m generally pro-free-trade, but I’m horrified that this agreement might be used, in a secretive back-door way, to twist Canada’s copyright system, which generally works well, in ways that could criminalize common-sense, socially-valuable uses of our shared intellectual heritage.”

Leading copyright expert Prof. Michael Geist had this to say: "The Canadian notice-and-notice system has proven to provide a fair balance for all stakeholders with evidence of benefits for rights holders while preserving free speech and privacy rights. The model has been adopted or is being considered in other countries and should be featured as an option in the TPP."

Erik Martin, General Manager of popular social news site reddit, said: “reddit is a platform for creating communities and sharing information. We have immense concerns about any proposals that would place the burden of preemptively policing users and blocking information onto communication platforms such as reddit directly. This is a real threat to all communication platforms that help to make our open Internet ecosystem so rich and diverse."
Jeremy Malcolm, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation commented, “There is no reason to think that the copyright rules being pushed in this agreement are the best rules for all twelve countries. Indeed, they may not be the best rules for any of those countries. They are simply the rules that the highly-paid lobbyists from big content industries would like to see locked in as immutable global standards. We mustn’t fall into that trap.”

The following have signed on to the joint letter:
Entrepreneurs: Alexis Ohanian (Co-founder of Reddit), Cory Doctorow, and Tim Bray (Textuality Services, Inc.), Ron Yokubaitis.

Businesses: Affinity Bridge, Agentic Digital Media, Amicus, Blacknight, Blindspot, Briteweb, Cheezburger, Data Foundry,, Happy Mutants LLC (, Catalyst Internet, cStreet Campaigns, Codename Design, Credo Mobile, Disconnect, Ello Foods, Engine Advocacy, Fark, Functional Imperative, Floop Technologies, Galiano Coffee Roasting, GHL Consultants, Giganews, Golden Frog, GrowthLogic, Hackers/Founders, i2Coalition, iiNet, iFixit, Interdependent Investments, Internet Archive, Imgur, Lionsgate Software, O'Reilly Media, Namecheap, reddit,, Techdirt, Thoughtworks, Tucows, TunnelBear, Scoop Media, ServInt, Spake Media House, Stack Exchange, Stack Overflow.

User groups: Article 19, Association of Progressive Communicators, Australian Digital Alliance, Australian Privacy Foundation, B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, Consumer New Zealand, Consumers International, Demand Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Fight for the Future, Gen Why Media, Hiperderecho, OpenMedia, Public Knowledge, Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), Wikimedia Foundation.

Companies and organizations can still sign on to the joint letter here:

See the full release here [PDF, 560KB]

1 comment

  1. I would just like to say 'thank-you' to EFA for helping to keep us informed.
    Thanks, people.

    Comment by Marty on 10 July 2014 at 13:11