Understanding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
Can you imagine a free-trade agreement between countries in the Pacific area? An agreement that would make importing goods and services from Brunei, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam easier and cheaper? Imagine the possibilities of what could be invented if you took the knowledge, technology and resources that each of these countries possessed, and you used them knowing they were within your reach for a reasonable price. It seems like a dream come true. One that would pave the way for innovation, economic growth and development. This is how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been positioned to the public, and those who do not care to look into it in more detail would agree that the partnership is highly beneficial and continue with their days.
However, for those who are interested WikiLeaks released a draft of the Intellectual Property portion of the agreement, and there are more than a few instances which would raise a few eyebrows.
Why the Secrecy?
First, and foremost, the partnership has been formed with a great deal of secrecy, particularly in the United States. While groups have commented on the need for transparency, government officials have refused to comment on the grounds that they are respecting the confidentiality of the agreement.
The Copyright Conundrum….
Secondly, the agreement has strict stipulations regarding copyrighted and related materials.
“Article 4.1 provides that rights holders may ‘authorize or prohibit all reproductions of their works, performances, and phonograms, in any manner or form, permanent or temporary (including temporary storage in electronic form).’”
….And the Possible Criminalization of Derivative Works?
Even if rights holders do not press charges, people caught reproducing or imitating copyrighted materials could be fined and/or imprisoned depending on how the agreement categorizes infringements. This clause is particularly damning for those interested in creative reproductions such as fan art, fanfiction writing and cosplay. For fan-based events such as Anime Expo or Anime North, attending cosplayers, and many individuals in vendors alleys would be classified as criminals if the TPP comes into effect. Furthermore, many artists who get their starts writing fan fictions or complements to stories would need to find other avenues to practice their craft and to share their creativity.
Extended Patent Terms….and Less Cheaply Produced Generic Drugs
Thirdly, the TPP also extends patents on many medical products. This means that individuals who were waiting for the patent to expire so that competing companies could develop generic, affordable alternatives will have to wait that much longer in order to obtain needed medicines. Many individuals who do not have access to these patented materials are unable to afford the expensive products which are currently available.
So, before you jump the gun and decide that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is amazing, read the fine print.
Cover Image Source: Backbone Campaign, Flickr Creative Commons. No changes made to image.
About: Tracey McKenna
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