Spotted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a one-word revision of the draft Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could underwrite “a massive extension” of the treaty’s powers to extend and harshen penalties for copyright infringement worldwide, regardless of mitigating circumstances. It could also indicate that TPP negotiators and associated lobbyists are trying to rewrite and extend the treaty even before it’s been ratified.
According to the EFF, the revision surfaced in a version “uploaded to the website of the official host of the agreement, New Zealand.” The one word revised is “paragraph” to “subparagraph.” However, argues the EFF, “in its original form the provision exempted a country from making available any of the criminal procedures and penalties listed above, except in circumstances where there was an impact on the copyright holder’s ability to exploit their work in the market.” Those penalties and procedures included imprisonment, forfeiture of assets, and the power of officials to act against infringers regardless of whether the rights-holder had complained or not. The revised text, however, makes things much worse. If EFF’s interpretation is correct, it would compel all EFF signatories to make all those penalties available – whether or not the actual infringement affects the rights-holder’s ability to make money from the work.
So not only could you be sent to prison for using copyrighted material for non-profit purposes, but your country could also be prevented from mitigating the penalties for your action on public interest grounds (such as providing own-language materials to minority communities). What’s perhaps worse, though, is the evidence that the TPP is being still tampered with to skew it even further in the interests of rights holders. If this is what’s going on, we should be even more worried that we are already – if possible.