SOPA: Dead in Congress, Alive in Trans-Pacific Partnership

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
SOPA: Dead in Congress, Alive in Trans-Pacific Partnership

Although SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act, which pushed for federal control over the Internet) died in Congress, it is alive and well in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Lobbyists who once unsuccessfully pushed for federal control over the Internet are now finding new hope in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

President Obama recently named Robert Holleyman deputy U.S. trade representative. Although he has worked until recently as a “chief executive of BSA/the Software Alliance, a trade organization for software companies that counts Apple, IBM, Microsoft and other top computer firms among its members,” a couple of years ago, Holleyman worked as a professional promoter of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill introduced in 2011 by Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

The official purpose of SOPA was to “expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to combat online copyright infringement and online trafficking in counterfeit goods.” In reality, though, the measure would have surrendered control of the Internet to federal agencies.

Much to Holleyman’s chagrin, the reaction to SOPA was so widespread that it led to the “largest online protest in history.” The bill was practically stillborn in Congress, but the multinational industries promoting it were not to be denied.

The consortium turned to the TPP and rejoiced that their agenda could still be enforced on the Internet and could be worked out in secret, safe from the protests, the protesters, and the prying eyes of civil libertarians.

As the Washington Post noted, “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.” 

When it comes to SOPA, the name of the bill, like so many other inappropriately named federal follies (Affordable Care Act?), has nothing to do with the real intent: granting government control over the content and traffic on the Internet.

If the agreement is being worked out in secret, how do we know such SOPA-like provisions are included? On November 13, 2013, WikiLeaks released to the Internet what appears to be a portion of the secretly negotiated draft version of the TPP.

Although the entire agreement reportedly runs over 1,000 pages and covers nearly every conceivable facet of commerce, the chapter leaked by the online whistleblower focuses on intellectual property rights (IPR).

In a press release announcing its publication of this key section of the TPP agreement, WikiLeaks described the Intellectual Property provisions as “the most controversial chapter of the TPP.” This chapter deserves that designation because of its substantial effect on so many aspects of American trade and industry, including, as WikiLeaks points out, what would be irreparable harm to “medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents.”

In an article reporting on the leak of the IPR chapter, Internet freedom and fair copyright advocate TorrentFreak points out the SOPA similarities in the TPP intellectual property chapter:

Click here to read the entire article.

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