Wikileaks publishes draft of secretive TPP trade pact

Comparing the Trans-Pacific Partnership to SOPA, critics say the 12-nation treaty currently being secretly negotiated could limit Internet freedoms.

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Wikileaks released on Wednesday what it called the draft text of a secretly negotiated international economic treaty that critics warn could limit Internet freedoms.

The document-leaking organization published a draft of the Intellectual Property Rights chapter for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed free-trade agreement between the US and 11 Pacific Rim nations that's been under negotiation for nearly three years. However, because the Obama administration has deemed the talks to be classified information, this appears to be the first time the public is getting a glimpse at the pact.

The 95-page chapter focuses on digital rights management, patents, copyrights, and ISP liabilities, as well as pharmaceutical issues. Calling it the "most controversial chapter," Wikileaks said the section harkens back to the surveillance and enforcement provisions in the now-shelved SOPA and ACTA legislation in the US. Critics say the TPP favors corporate interests over the rights of individuals.

"One could see the TPP as a Christmas wish-list for major corporations, and the copyright parts of the text support such a view," Matthew Rimmer, an expert in intellectual property law, told the Sydney Morning Herald. "Hollywood, the music industry, big IT companies such as Microsoft and the pharmaceutical sector would all be very happy with this."

Knowledge Ecology International said the draft "confirms fears that the negotiating parties are prepared to expand the reach of intellectual property rights, and shrink consumer rights and safeguards."

"The TPP text shrinks the space for exceptions in all types of intellectual property rights," the non-governmental organization said in a statement. "Negotiated in secret, the proposed text is bad for access to knowledge, bad for access to medicine, and profoundly bad for innovation."

Some US lawmakers have also expressed concerns about a lack of congressional oversight and jurisdiction over the pact due to an executive branch procedure called "Trade Promotion Authority," also known as "Fast Track."

"Under Fast Track, the executive branch is empowered to sign trade agreements before Congress has an opportunity to vote on them, and then unilaterally write legislation making the pacts' terms U.S. federal law," according to a letter (PDF) signed by 22 House Republicans on Tuesday. "Fast Track allows the president to send these executive branch-authored bills directly to the floor for a vote under rules forbidding all floor amendments and limiting debate. And by requiring the House to vote on the bill within a present period of time, it takes the floor schedule out of the hands of the House majority and gives it to the president."

The treaty negotiations have also attracted more than 100,000 signatures to an online petition that opposes possible government proposals for stricter Internet laws. The "Say no to Internet censorship" petition, which was launched in late September by advocacy organization OpenMedia, targets participants in the talks, which includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Peru, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam.