Civil rights groups warn secret copyright treaty might add liability risks for ISPs

The draft treaty indicates that ISPs would be required to prevent infringements, the groups said

Civil rights groups have published a letter opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement because a leaked draft version of the treaty indicates that it could add liability risks for ISPs and impose limitations on fundamental human rights.

The proposed copyright treaty is far more restrictive than what is currently required by international treaties, including the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) one of 12 organizations opposing the TPP. There are currently nine countries, including the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, negotiating the multinational trade agreement "that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement", stated the EFF on its website.

The EFF and the other civil society groups, including Knowledge Economy International and U.S.-based Public Knowledge responded in their letter published Tuesday to the recently leaked third draft of the treaty. The groups expressed concerns over U.S. proposals in the draft document.

"The U.S. approach of seeking higher levels of copyright protection combined with a minimally effective provision on limitations and exceptions may end up generating greater risks of liability for ISPs," the organizations wrote. The proposed U.S. text for the TPP indicates that ISPs would be required to take measures to prevent infringement, which could put Internet users' freedom and ability to innovate at risk, while imposing greater barriers to development and human rights, particularly for those from developing countries, they added.

The scope of the text proposed by the U.S. and Australia will restrict rights that are essential to access information, culture, science, education and innovation, according to the letter.

"We cannot accept these limitations on fundamental human rights," they said, urging that negotiating countries oppose the "maximalist approach" to intellectual property of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Instead, it would be better to negotiate international intellectual property regulations using a more transparent method.

They also urged the other countries to release official proposals to make the text fully transparent and so that it can be scrutinized by the public and legislative bodies of the countries involved, and not just by "corporate conglomerates who wish to protect their business models and profits."

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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