WikiLeaks has released the draft text of a chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a multilateral free-trade treaty currently being negotiated in secret by 12 Pacific Rim nations.
The full agreement covers a number of areas, but the chapter published by WikiLeaks focuses on intellectual property rights, an area of law which has effects in areas as diverse as pharmaceuticals and civil liberties.
Negotiations for the TPP have included representatives from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, and Brunei, but have been conducted behind closed doors. Even members of the US Congress were only allowed to view selected portions of the documents under supervision.
“We’re really worried about a process which is so difficult for those who take an interest in these agreements to deal with. We rely on leaks like these to know what people are talking about,” says Peter Bradwell, policy director of the London-based Open Rights Group.
“Lots of people in civil society have stressed that being more transparent, and talking about the text on the table, is crucial to give treaties like this any legitimacy. We shouldn’t have to rely on leaks to start a debate about what’s in then.”
The 30,000 word intellectual property chapter contains proposals to increase the term of patents, including medical patents, beyond 20 years, and lower global standards for patentability. It also pushes for aggressive measures to prevent hackers breaking copyright protection, although that comes with some exceptions: protection can be broken in the course of “lawfully authorised activities carried out by government employees, agents, or contractors for the purpose of law enforcement, intelligence, essential security, or similar governmental purposes”.
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