Friday, October 17, 2014

TPPA would criminalise journalism

Wikileaks leaked the latest version of the TPPA intellectual property chapter last night. There's some nasty surprises from the US, including its efforts to revive the defunct Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement by the backdoor and its efforts to ensure poor countries fighting, say, ebola can't violate patents to save lives and prevent an epidemic (because in American eyes, the profits of big pharmaceutical companies come before human lives). But there's another nasty sting: the TPPA would criminalise investigative journalism:

The draft text provides that TPP countries will introduce criminal penalties for unauthorised access to, misappropriation or disclosure of trade secrets, defined as information that has commercial value because it is secret, by any person using a computer system.

TPP countries may criminalise all such disclosures or, if they wish, limit criminal penalties to cases that involve "commercial advantage or financial gain"; are directed by or benefit "a foreign economic entity"; or are "detrimental to a [TPP] party's economic interests, international relations, or national defence or national security."

There are no public interest or free speech exemptions. Criminalisation of disclosure would apply to journalists working for commercial media organisations or wherever the leak was considered harmful to the "economic interests" of any TPP country.

Unmentioned: it also criminalises leaks which are detrimental to a party's international relations or international security. So, the US is trying to US the TPPA as a backdoor to silence WikiLeaks, the Snowden files, and the entire enterprise of journalistic criticism of power.

The TPPA was bad enough when it was merely a secret deal being negotiated against our interests. But now its actively anti-democratic as well. Which I think shows us the danger of allowing our governments to negotiate such deals in secret: because we may find out at the end of it that they've signed away our democracy.