TPP Grapples With a New International Commodity - Information

If the sparks flying in Canada are any indication, the next round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations set for Auckland, New Zealand December 3-12 will reach beyond issues of market access for goods such as dairy, sugar and textiles into a whole new arena – access to information.

Canada formally joined the TPP talks, which now involve 11 countries with a combined population of 658 million people and a total GDP of $20.5 trillion, earlier this year.

Almost immediately, Canadian Internet activists began voicing fears that eventual agreements could include global copyright restrictions so strong as to severely limit internet access as well as copyrighted books, music and other information that automatically moves into the public domain after a set number of years.

Indeed, bootleg copies of a proposed copyright agreement reportedly show negotiators’ interest in extending copyright among participating countries to 70 years after the death of an author or composer – the current provision in U.S. law.  In Canada, copyright extends for 50 years after death.

By late this fall, some 100,000 Canadians had signed an online petition to government leaders protesting what they view as a power move by the multi-national information industry to extend copyright revenue for the extra two decades. Naturally, the movie and music lobbies have a different view, arguing that artists and their descendents should be entitled to earn money from copyrighted work for as long as possible.

Here’s the bottom line.  In today’s global digital world, information has become a highly valuable and often closely regulated commodity.  TPP negotiators will need to deal with, if not solve, the resulting riddles if these talks, now about the begin Round 15, are to end anytime soon.


Ainsley Shea