Episode 215 - #TPPfail
Published October 20, 2015
It's the Zombie trade treaty that will not die... returning again to our discussions is the TransPacific Partnership. Still shrouded in secrecy, but newly finalized and set to break the Internet. We've been pretty actively following this terrible example of the worst of government/corporate cooperation and once again decided to dive into just what's wrong with it, and what you can do to fight it. Recorded 10/11/2015.
Mike & Matt's Recommended Reading:
Trans-Pacific Partnership on Wikipedia
EFF's Primer on the TPP - find out what you can do and get involved!
Episode 169 - #KillTheTPP, our episode from 5/12/2015, also on the TPP
Episode 134 - Peak 2015!!, one of our previous mentions of the TPP
Episode 119 - Neutral Net, another of our previous discussions that included the TPP
Episode 54 - TPP'ing The Internet, our episode from 3/9/2014, one of our first on the TPP
More coming soon...
Alpha: Welcome to another episode of Robot Overlordz, episode #215. On the show we take a look at how society is changing, everything from pop culture reviews to political commentary, technology trends to social norms, all in about thirty minutes or less, every Tuesday and Thursday.
Mike Johnston: Greetings cyborgs, robots, and natural humans. I’m Mike Johnston.
Matt Bolton: And I’m Matt Bolton, and today we wanted to revisit a topic that we’ve talked about once before, the TPP, which is back in the news again because it’s headed for Congress, and then on to Obama if it gets through Congress, which let’s all hope and pray it doesn’t. For those of you who don’t know, TPP stands for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it’s a trade agreement amongst the United States, Canada, and then several smaller Asian nations—Vietnam…basically all of the Asian nations besides China, is what it involves, and it would be a free trade agreement between us and all of those nations.
MJ: Isn’t Australia and New Zealand on there, too?
MJ: I think they are, yeah. I think the disappointing thing is if it passes Congress, Obama, because it is somewhat one of his administration’s babies, it’ll definitely go through if it goes through Congress.
MB: Oh, absolutely.
MJ: So, really Congress is the place to stop it. And I guess what’s frustrating to me is, as I’ve said before, I voted for Obama, but this is the area that I think he is completely wrong on, that it’s a trade agreement that really follows established corporate power players. It’s got a lot of copyright stuff in it, it’s got a lot of enforcement in intellectual property stuff in it. It’s just those industries and pharma, too—the pharmaceutical industry—it’s those industries’ wishlist. And it’s the big companies at that level, so a lot of it will shut out the little guy. I think it’s a terrible agreement, and the fact that it’s been negotiated completely in secret…even if you supported the ideas in it, which personally I don’t, but even if you supported it, I think that the secrecy should disturb you.
MB: Yeah, absolutely. Any time the government comes up with something where they, you know, say, “Well, it’s such a good idea, but we can’t let you know what’s in it until…” I mean, they won’t even tell senators and congressmen what’s in this thing. So, to me that’s very scary, and now we’re starting, because it’s been ratified and things are going to start moving on it, now they’re starting to finally say, “Alright, these are the things that are in it,” and none of it is good.
MJ: Well, and WikiLeaks has actually unveiled a lot of what is actually in it. I mean, this is the finalized text now. This is no longer, “Oh, that’s a draft that’s been fixed.” No, this is in the actual draft. This is the stuff that’s—it’s a terrible idea, and it’s in the draft, like extending copyright to life plus 70, I think is the standard?
MJ: So, these are the things that benefit big corporations only. They don’t benefit creators. They certainly don’t benefit anyone independent who’s doing any kind of repurposing or remixing or that kind of cultural work.
MB: Yeah, no. Well, the other thing too that’s scary, and there was an article about it this week: the rules say that if…let’s say a judge in Vietnam determines that something violates copyright there, then we have to take it down off the internet in the United States. That’s what this agreement says. And the ISPs have to enforce all of this stuff. The whole thing is a nightmare and you’re going to see the internet just completely…
MJ: Completely break.
MB: Well yeah, it’s going to completely break and it’s going to be completely censored. And that’s the great thing about the internet, is the fact that it’s not a censored thing. It’s always been about free speech, it’s brought free speech to places that don’t have free speech, and now we’re going to try and break it. The whole thing, just from that perspective, doesn’t make sense, and there are a lot of other things about it that are just truly awful.
MJ: Yeah, I think it’s going to raise the cost of a lot of things. These are things that shouldn’t be secret. There may be a time and a place for secrecy; I think you could justify secrecy maybe around military things, those types of agreements, maybe. But you’re talking about an agreement that affects a whole range of things that you have no argument for secrecy. That’s what it is about this that pisses me off. And when you look at the people that are involved, they’ve cozied up to so many industries that really are publicly despised. I mean, you’ve got the copyright industry, the movie studios, the record industry, you’ve got pharmaceutical companies… These industries, the things that they couldn’t do in the open, sort of sunlight government process, they’re trying to sneak in the back door with this treaty. And like you said, they won’t let senators take notes or anything, they have to go into a secret special room where they can review the document maybe, but they can’t take notes, they can’t take their staff, they can’t do any of the things that are part of the normal legislative process. That’s what it is about this that bothers me so much, is that it’s so much sort of your vested interests, your power players, that they don’t even need this really—they want it. So, instead of being open about it, what they’re trying to do, and instead of going through the actual channels that are built into government for things like this to get in, because they know they can’t do it that way, they’re sneaking it in the back door, and this is really just one of those areas I think Obama has not lived up to any of his campaign promises. I mean, “change,” if this is a change, it’s for the worse, it’s not in any way a positive change.
MB: Yeah. Well, and the other thing too about it is—and I’m more right wing, I did vote for Obama, but I’m more right-wing and usually right wing people like these free trade agreements, and I’m going to very much disagree on that, because when NAFTA was signed, I was kind of for it, I didn’t really look into it that much, but I thought, “Well, North American Free Trade Agreement, we’ll be able to export…” The problem is—and if you look at what happened after NAFTA and what’ll happen with this one even I think to more of an extreme, is large companies that manufacture things in the United States, a lot of the time the reason that the don’t manufacture things like in China or other places is because of the tariffs of bringing them into this country make it cost prohibitive, so they still manufacture things here. But when you open up free trade for places like…I keep going back to Vietnam or some of these smaller companies that are a lot of times very impoverished, you can manufacture things and pay these people $2 or $3 an hour, which is, to them, a lot of money, and so what you saw with NAFTA and what you’ll see with this is companies who are manufacturing things in the United States will just take all of that manufacturing and move it to one of these other countries, and then sell it back to us, but we’re going to miss out on all the jobs and everything else. This is a great deal for places like some of these smaller Asian nations, but it’s a bad deal for the United States, and that’s why I can’t figure out the bedfellows on this thing, you have Obama supporting it, but then most of the Democrats are vehemently opposed to it, but a lot of the Republicans are for it. It makes very strange bedfellows, and you can’t go, “Well, the Republicans shouldn’t, or the Democrats…” because it’s kind of all over the board on it.
MJ: Yeah. I think it really comes back to sort of the corporate money and dark money in politics, how corrupting that is. This is, to me, the politicians selling out everyone for their corporate masters, and that kind of cuts across party lines, your traditional liberal/conservative thing. I mean, it’s how on the hook are you? I found it really kind of disillusioning to see Obama championing this thing. Honestly, I didn’t really vote FOR him, I voted AGAINST the other guy particularly, by the time the election came around. But at one point, I thought he might be different than your standard politician. Do you know, actually, NAFTA, was that negotiated in secret the way this is?
MB: No, nothing like this one, because there was none of the copyright and trademark, it was basically just a trade agreement.
MJ: I was actually just looking at it on Wikipedia, and apparently there is a little bit of copyright stuff, very minor, but it did actually, you know how they say the TPP won’t change US law? NAFTA actually did change US law. It forced some changes to copyright law by actually restoring copyright on some motion pictures that had entered public domain—according to Wikipedia, so, you know, take that with at least some grain of salt. But still, again and again, they try and sell this thing—the TPP—they’re trying to sell it with, “Oh, it won’t change US law.” That’s bullshit! It’s just flat out bullshit! And Obama, when he gave a speech not too long ago, I think at the beginning of the summer at Nike’s corporate headquarters—you know, I mean, how obvious do you have to be about who supports this and who it’s going to screw?
MB: Yeah. Well, you know, Nike, for years, they’ve always made their shoes—I mean, it was a big deal because they were paying little kids $2 or $3 a day to sew shoes. So, that’s never going to change, but Nike is going to save a hell of a lot of money because they’ll just be able to ship the shoes over here without paying any tariffs on them.
MJ: It’s just a terrible deal. It’s a terrible deal, and what gets me is how blasé they are that they can get this passed. The only good thing about it fast tracked, the fact that Congress gave fast track authority, is that if it dies in Congress, there’s no bringing it back. And don’t they have, like, 30 days?
MB: I think it’s actually—I don’t even think there’s a time limit on it.
MJ: I thought fast track came with a time limit, like from when it’s introduced into Congress, they have X period of time to get it through, and if they can’t, then it just dies.
MB: There may be, but they were talking about this thing may not even—this may go until the beginning of next year.
MJ: They haven’t introduced it officially yet? I mean, I know the treaty itself is finalized…
MJ: …But I think that fast track window kicks in once it gets introduced to Congress. I was reading some article, basically their analysis was that the only good thing about fast track is that if it gets hung up for a long enough time, it means it dies.
MB: Which would be fine, too. I really don’t care how it dies, as long as it dies. There’s nothing about this thing, to me, that seems like a… I mean, I’ve read articles that are written about the sections of it, and I haven’t read anything that’s good for the United States in there. There are things that are great for American corporations, that’ll save them a lot of money, but they’re all going to involve the loss of jobs in the United States. Eventually, if we keep moving jobs everywhere else, people in this country aren’t going to be able to afford to buy anything anyhow. So, I don’t get the support for it, and right now I would say that it’s a 50/50 that it’ll even get passed. But, to me…
MJ: That’s way too much chance that it’ll get passed.
MJ: What gets me is that, to a certain extent, these kind of laws that they keep trying to introduce, it’s like a friggin’ zombie infestation. They had SOPA, they had PIPA… Every time they keep trying to do these dumb laws, and the internet will come together and kind of rally and shoot it down and campaign against it. But to have to do that all the time, it does get tiring, particularly when all of that is actually grassroots. The support for things like TPP, that’s all astroturf. I mean, nowhere is there an actual grassroots organization that’s really pushing for that.
MB: No, not at all, and I think even the supporters of it—I don’t want to say supporters—but people who wouldn’t mind if it got passed aren’t really…like, if you said, “Well, it’s not going to get passed,” I don’t think that they would be like, “Oh, we’ll have to go out and protest.” I think it would be more of a, “Well, that’s too bad. We’ll try again or whatever.” But yeah, you’re right, it’s becoming tiring. My fear is that one of these times, one of these things, like SOPA or PIPA—this thing is like SOPA or PIPA on steroids, it’s way worse—but my fear is that people are just going to eventually go, “Eh, I’m tired of getting upset about that,” and move on, and it’s going to get passed. We have to keep remembering that the internet is probably one of the most important inventions of the last 50 years. It’s literally changed our entire culture. It’s changed the world’s culture. And the fact that we would let governments even think about breaking it or tampering with it or changing it or doing anything to it is just…it’s mind-boggling to me. I mean, say what you will, but I just don’t think the government can be trusted to try and regulate what goes on on the internet. That’s always been the greatest thing about the internet, is that it’s completely open.
MJ: See, I think this is a perfect storm of both government AND corporate interference in things. Because really, a lot of this is driven by these big corporations, they look at the short-term bottom line, and this looks good to them, these look like good ideas. And you know what? Maybe to them they are on paper. But again and again I return to that quote by Upton Sinclair: “If someone’s livelihood depends on something, they misunderstand it.” I forget the exact quote now, I use it a ton. But I don’t think these companies really realize what they’re doing, and their short-term interests, they’re going to break a lot of things. I mean, there was recently a study I read on one of the copyright news sites that I read, it might’ve been Techdirt actually, but anyway, this was a study actually paid for by the entertainment industry, and the study’s result, which they later disavowed, were that the ideal copyright length is 10 years. Like, that’s the ideal for really encouraging artists to contribute to things. Copyright is a relatively new invention in human culture. I mean, the first copyright law was the Statute of Anne in England, which I think was in the 1600s—I mean, I’m probably getting my specific dates wrong here, but. If you read the Constitution, where Congress was given the power to enact copyright, nowhere in there does it say, “For authors’ moral rights” or things like that. They were given that power in order to promote arts and sciences. So here’s a study by the entertainment industry’s own groups that came back and said 10 years is what it should be. Well right now, it’s life of the author plus, like, 30, I think, in the States. you have all these heirs of various estates that fight like crazy because—seriously, personally I think they’re a bunch of deadbeats, because really, those are the people we’re entrusting with our cultural heritage? These are the people that get to decide what is and what isn’t allowed? I mean, it’s messed up. And here’s this study that shows it should only be 10 years. For most people, that’s going to be in their lifetime.
MB: Yeah. Well, and you look at—and not to get too far off the topic here—but you look at things like “King Arthur” and “Camelot,” things that are in the public domain that are off copyright, and the things that people do with them and the cool stories that they come up with, to me, that’s more important. I understand copyright and I agree with copyright, that we should have copyright, that you can write a book and somebody can’t just go ahead and steal it or whatever. But yeah, the fact that it goes beyond the life of the author I think is stupid. The author’s nephew or grandchild or whatever shouldn’t control what the author did a hundred years ago. To me, it just seems idiotic.
MJ: Well, I think a lot of that is driven by—a lot of copyrights are now held by corporations. Take something like the Marvel universe, those characters—Spider-Man, The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, the X-Men, all of those—they were created now almost 50-some years ago. What could the public domain do with those characters, and yet they’re not allowed, because Marvel and actually now Disney owns those copyrights? And Disney has been one of the most aggressive, which is completely ironic, because if you look at early Disney history, all of their movies were basically taking public domain stories and doing their own spin. So that’s basically you not allowing someone else to have the chance that you had. It’s backwards to me.
MB: Yeah, I was going to use that Disney example as the perfect example. We have Disney to thank for a lot of the ridiculous copyright extensions and laws that we have in this country. They’re a big, huge corporation and they lobby to get this kind of stupidity done because, oh my god, what if Mickey got out into the public domain, heaven forbid. That was sarcasm, by the way, if you couldn’t…
MJ: [laughs] Well really, at this point, seriously, Disney is such a well-known brand already, they’re so identified already with Mickey. Do you really think that people couldn’t distinguish between someone else’s version of Mickey and Disney’s version of Mickey? And really, what is Disney even doing with Mickey these days? How long has it been since there was a Mickey Mouse movie? He’s basically just a corporate logo at this point, in a lot of ways, and occasionally an appearance on the Disney channel, like in a commercial. They’ve really watered down that character.
MB: Yeah, other than going to the—I don’t even know, I haven’t been to Disney World in a while—but I don’t even remember seeing him really at Disney World. I mean, the logo is there and you can go to any gift shop and there’s a thousand and one Mickey Mouse dolls. But beyond that, yeah, you’re right, he’s not a character that every couple of years we have a new Mickey Mouse movie. When was the last time you saw Mickey Mouse in a movie? “Fantasia,” I’m thinking, and that was in the ‘50s, I think. Or ‘60s.
MJ: No, I think actually “Fantasia” might’ve been ‘40s. But still though, I think this is the perfect illustration of how we’re allowing short-term interests and short-term thinking to dominate the agenda. And when you get something like the TPP, that they’re just going to ram through, they’ve done it in secret, nobody is able to say, “Hey, wait a minute, this is a bad idea!” And really, I blame all of our politicians for allowing this to happen. The fact that people aren’t crowing about this on mainstream news every political appearance, or every media appearance… This is why corporate-owned media is a bad idea, because you know what? They’re all owned by these mega corporations that are the ones that are in favor of this. So you’re not going to get reporting on it, your average person is…other than the internet and people spreading it virally… That’s what’s so hard about the fight, I think, is that it’s not getting the attention it deserves. I mean, to me, this is way more important than who won this or that football game or baseball game. And maybe that’s own interests reflecting there, that’s somewhat self-serving, but I still think at a big societal level we should care about this way more than who wins “Dancing with the Stars.”
MB: Oh, absolutely. Well, you know, even when SOPA and PIPA were at the forefront of the internet, you could go on any news site—CNN, FOX News, MSNBC—you could go on their websites and there wasn’t even a mention of SOPA or PIPA. None whatsoever. And if you look at it, obviously FOX News is owned by 21th Century FOX, NBC owns Universal Studios, ABC is Disney. So we’re talking huge movie companies that own these channels, and there’s no way they’re ever going to—because they’re in such support. So, if you want any information about this stuff, you have to go to places on the internet that’ll actually report on it. There’s been a lot of studies lately where there’s absolutely zero trust now in the news media. News media is the least trusted it’s ever been in history since they started asking the question, and it’s for reasons like this, I think. I mean, you’re not even going to report on something because your parent company is in favor of it? I mean, come on, it’s bad reporting and it’s bad journalism.
MJ: And it’s bad for the health of society. I mean, this is what they used to call “The Iron Curtain.” If you can control what people can talk about, what people can think about by not talking about it, it’s very powerful stuff. And the fact that they’re in these roles, the fact that Obama can give a major speech about this at a corporate headquarters that basically shows to everybody that’s paying attention this is what’s driving this, this is how much of a lie the things he’s saying about it are, and nobody reports on it, or at most they say, “Well, he gave a speech today…” To me, this is a major deal, and I think more people should be upset about it. No matter what your political affiliations are—liberal, conservative, whatever—this should really hack you off that this is going on in this country.
MB: Well yeah. And if you want to just look at it from a—almost like you’re somebody who doesn’t pay attention to politics and you’re like, “Well, I don’t really care what this thing does”: it’ll basically kill Youtube, because anybody can just say, “Hey, that’s my video” and it’s your position then to prove that they’re wrong. It’s basically you’re guilty before you’ve done anything. There are things in the TPP that say that you can’t do links to other things… It’s going to make the internet a huge, slow, burdensome pain and it’s going to ruin what we’ve taken years to build and made one of the greatest social things of this generation and hopefully future generations if we don’t screw it up and break it.
MJ: Yeah. What bothers me is they seem to have no consciousness that that’s what this will do, and, “Oh, no, no, it’s fine, it’s fine. Yay Obama! Free trade!” It’s all these catchphrases, and yet they won’t be upfront with you about what it’s actually doing, they tell lies like it won’t change US law. I mean, if this thing does get enacted, it will be exceedingly difficult to undo, and that right there is one of the bigger arguments, I think, against it, that it’s going to make huge structural changes, it’s going to be very difficult to undo, and it’s happening completely outside the process where we have checks and balances to make sure that things are fair and open. So, anyway, definitely get informed about the TPP, write your congressperson, your representatives. People need to get very upset about this and make a loud enough noise that it dies the death it should, basically, and doesn’t come back to life yet again.
MB: Yeah. One last thing I’ll say is a lot of what pisses me off is people saw how angry everybody got about SOPA and PIPA, and yet here we are going through it all over again, so.
MJ: Yeah, amen to that. We’ll have a couple links in the shownotes, and use the internet man, search for it, find out, get educated, and get involved. This is way too important to leave to, “Business as usual.”
MB: Yeah, absolutely.
A: That’s all for this episode of Robot Overlordz. Are you interested in the future and how society is changing? We’d love to have you join our community. Visit our website to learn more and to connect with others that share that interest. You can find us at RobotOverlordz.FM. The site includes all of the show’s old episodes along with complete transcripts, links to more information about the topics and guests in each episode, and our mailing list and forums. We’d also love to hear what you think about the show. You can review us on iTunes or email us.
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MJ: Thanks everyone for listening.