Transatlantic Civil Society Declaration: Leave Copyright and Patent Provisions Out of TAFTA

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Last month, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the launch of a new trade deal between the United States and the European Union. This transatlantic free trade agreement (TAFTA)—or what government leaders are touting as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—is likely to carry copyright provisions that would pose a serious threat to digital rights. Past and currently negotiated trade agreements have enacted rules that would force ISPs to turn into copyright police, place harsh and disproportionate criminal penalties on file sharers, and seriously impair users' ability to innovate and access content on the Internet.

When President Obama made his announcement, he said that this new regional agreement would be necessary "because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs." But if the past is to be a guide, one only has to look at the way in which the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and other bilateral and regional trade agreements have shut out civil society groups from negotiations, to understand our skepticism that this new transatlantic trade deal will be drafted in a "free and fair" manner that would uphold the broad interests of Internet users.

Intellectual property provisions in prior trade agreements are often also hugely biased towards big content industry interests. Entrepreneurs, small businesses, and artists benefit from a system that enables them to access and build upon existing innovation and culture. Copyright and patent provisions in recent trade agreements have needlessly locked up technology and decades of content in a manner that stifles independent innovation. Any new trade deal that carries similarly restrictive provisions is more likely to choke job creation than promote it.

EFF joins 40 U.S. and EU organizations in calling for legitimate transparency in upcoming TAFTA negotiations, and further, that it exclude any provisions related to patents, copyright, trademarks, data protection, or other forms of so-called “intellectual property”. We call on government leaders to put an end to secretive trade deals that bind our nations to international legal obligations that run counter to economic, cultural, and digital freedoms.



Last year, millions of Americans told their government not to undermine the open internet. We sent the SOPA and PIPA bills down to defeat.

Soon after, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Europe to protest against ACTA, a secretive trade agreement that would have violated our rights online and chilled generic drug competition.

Meanwhile, leaked trade texts revealed US and EU threats to access to affordable medicines, which significantly disrupted trade talks in India and the Pacific.

On February 13, the US President Barack Obama, the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced the official launch of negotiations of a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA)—also touted as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.

We, the undersigned, are internet freedom and public health groups, activists, and other public interest leaders dedicated to the rights of all people to access cultural and educational resources and affordable medicines, to enjoy a free and open internet, and to benefit from open and needs-driven innovation.

First, we insist that the European Union and United States release, in timely and ongoing fashion, any and all negotiating or pre-negotiation texts. We believe that secretive “trade” negotiations are absolutely unacceptable forums for devising binding rules that change national non-trade laws.

Second, we insist that the proposed TAFTA exclude any provisions related to patents, copyright, trademarks, data protection, geographical indications, or other forms of so-called “intellectual property”. Such provisions could impede our rights to health, culture, and free expression and otherwise affect our daily lives.

Past trade agreements negotiated by the US and EU have significantly increased the privileges of multinational corporations at the expense of society in general. Provisions in these agreements can, among many other concerns, limit free speech, constrain access to educational materials such as textbooks and academic journals, and, in the case of medicines, raise healthcare costs and contribute to preventable suffering and death.

Unless “intellectual property” is excluded from these talks, we fear that the outcome will be an agreement that inflicts the worst of both regimes’ rules on the other party. From a democratic perspective, we believe that important rules governing technology, health, and culture should be debated in the US Congress, the European Parliament, national parliaments, and other transparent forums where all stakeholders can be heard—not in closed negotiations that give privileged access to corporate insiders.

The TAFTA negotiations must not lead to a rewriting of patent and copyright rules in a way that tilts the balance even further away from the interests of citizens. 

News Source : Transatlantic Civil Society Declaration: Leave Copyright and Patent Provisions Out of TAFTA

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