Episode 54 - TPP'ing The Internet
Published March 20, 2014
Could the TransPacific Partnership be the treaty that kills the golden goose that is THE INTERNET?!? Join us as we take a look at this secretive, misunderstood, and misguided attempt to KILL THE INTERNET... Recorded on 3/9/2014.
You can download the episode here.
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!
The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Who wins, who loses, why it matters, by Don Lee (Los Angeles Times, 2/19/2014)
Rootstrikers' Trans-Pacific Parternship page - another opportunity to get involved
Mike Johnston: Welcome to another episode of Robot Overlordz where we look at how society is changing from pop culture reviews to political commentary in under thirty minutes. I'm Mike Johnston.
Matt Bolton: And I'm Matt Bolton.
MJ: On this episode we wanted to take a look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been in negotiation since 2010 between a number of countries, including the US. It's basically a trade agreement, but there's an awful lot of extra things that have sort of been shoe-horned into it and what has been disturbing to, certainly the internet activist community, is there's a lot of intellectual property and copyright law changes in it and a lot of, really, the kinds of things that the entertainment industry wants that are very similar to things like SOPA, the ACTA. We talked about SOPA way back when we first started doing Robot Overlordz back in 2011 with episode 6 and the TPP is worse by a factor of about a billion and it's all in secret.
MB: I think that's what's more disturbing to me about- well, because there have been little pieces of information that have trickled out about what's in it and what's not, but the fact that the whole thing has been negotiated completely in secrecy is the most disturbing part of it. They don't want any of this out and if it was such a good deal for consumers and if it was such a good deal for anybody, there would be no reason not to at least talk about what they're trying to accomplish with this thing.
MJ: And a lot of the insider groups like the entertainment industry, like the MPAA, the RIAA, they get access to it completely. Their reps are on the panels, even. That strikes me as insane, to grant- that'd be like if you'd allowed the MPAA to select their own judges for the Sony Betamax trial. Obviously we wouldn't have gotten the VCR. They have such a poor track record - that's who you're going to let make policy and make law? If this thing gets enacted, we're going to be on the hook to make our laws match it. To me, it's a way of bypassing all the legislative legal processes that result in our laws, that debate in an open forum and everything, and, 'Oh, sorry, we signed this treaty so you can't make any changes to the laws,' and the US already has one bad copyright law, the DMCA!
MB: We've talked about that at length in some of our other podcasts about how that was- when it was written it was a bad law, but the corporations have used it to twist it and make it even worse than it was originally intended for. With this thing, the fact that you're having some of these music and movie companies actually writing this thing in secrecy and not telling anybody what they're doing, you know this thing is going to be far, far worse than the DMCA or SOPA and PIPA. What bothers me with SOPA and PIPA, remember when they were trying to do that they wanted to rush that thing through, they wanted to get it taken care of almost immediately.
MJ: And they're doing the same thing with this, you know, they're trying to fast-track it. The EFF has a great page and, we'll include this in the show notes, about the TPP and what can be done. I love the EFF, that's the Electronic Frontiers Foundation. I've donated to them before and certainly intend on doing it again, I think they do some pretty good work, particularly around intellectual property and copyrights.
MB: Yeah, I heard about it from you and I've actually started looking at it a lot more, included it in my RSS feed, and it is a good resource especially for things like this. Right now I know President Obama wants this to go through, he's been pushing to get it- he basically wants the Senate to pass something that allows him to just fast-track things like this and right now, as much as I dislike Harry Reid, I dislike him a lot, but he's the person right now who's standing in Obama's way and he's the only person who's basically preventing this thing, at this point, from becoming law. Like I said, as much as I don't like him, I'm hoping he continues to do that.
MJ: Yeah, fingers crossed, and I'll be upfront - I voted for Obama, and this is an area where I think his record is absolutely frigging atrocious. It's terrible, his record on intellectual property and the fact that he's basically in bed with the industry groups, and is ready to screw consumers with no public debate, no light on it. Like you said, he's trying to fast-track it and totally avoid the light being shined on this, and this is what frustrates me about copyright as an issue. Your average person would be like, 'Ah, it's just copyrighted, those movie studios, they deserve to get paid,' and all that. Actually, I'm all for that. I buy movies all the time. You know what my Blu-Ray collection is like.
MB: Oh yeah, I've seen it.
MJ: I'm all for them getting paid, I'm just not for them having the things that they want because they don't just want to get paid for the movie that you buy at the store, they want to be able to- like, our last episode, we were talking about Comcast- episode 53, we were talking about Comcast and their arrogance with coming in your house to make your cable modem into a Wi-Fi hotspot. The entertainment wants to control how you watch movies. They want to be able to turn things on and off. And the drafts that have leaked of the TPP, they basically show that those digital locks that they put on our stuff are absolutely illegal to break.
MB: If you like YouTube or some of these other video sharing sites, you can basically kiss those goodbye if this thing goes through because they're literally going to try and bring down everything and with this thing they'll have the power to do it, and it's not like it is now where if somebody comes to you and says, 'Hey, that's my video you're using, take it down,' you have things in place to fight them. With this, they're just going to remove your video and then prosecute you and you have basically no legal recourse. It's more of a- you're the criminal and it's your job to prove that you're not, as opposed to the way it should work which is innocent until proven guilty. It's going to reverse that and make it much more difficult because if they take down your video, are you really going to have the money and the lawyers and the power to fight the MPAA or the RIAA? There's just no way.
MJ: More than that, it actually criminalizes it. So not only are you on the hook for all that, but you could go to jail for the fact that you did that. That's the kind of power we want to give to these guys? I mean, it totally restricts fair use. The whole thing about fair use, which really isn't particularly well-worded, but it's an out to say for criticism, for commentary, you don't have to ask the copyright owner's permission. That would just go out the window. There is no such thing as fair use under the kinds of doctrines or the kinds of law that the entertainment industry wants to see. Did they give you permission? If the answer is no, you're going to jail. There's no out. If they don't like the way you're talking about it, I mean, just take that a little bit out into the world. Say you wrote a negative review about a restaurant, you know, say you didn't like Joe Bob's ribs and you wrote a negative review and he had, somewhere on his menu, a license or agreement about negative reviews, if you look at our copyright system, it just...I don't even know where to go next with that. But you know what? That's the kind of abuse we're already getting with the bad laws we have, and this is a quantum jump of that kind of bad law.
MB: The other thing too, and this goes back to the DMCA and SOPA and PIPA, is I don't think people really- the average person- you just said on this- the average person doesn't really realize exactly what in their life is going to be affected, and I think if they did people would obviously raise all kinds of holy hell about it.
MJ: Well, they're trying to sneak it through before people realize and that's half the reason, it seems, for the fast-track.
MB: Right. I think that if this thing ever got passed, once it got passed, people would be like, 'Ah, whatever,' and then in a year or two all of a sudden all of this stuff would come out, like, 'Hey, this is really affecting my life,' and by that point it'll be way too late and there'll be nothing you can do about it. I'm hoping with EFF and, even to a small extent, our podcast, just getting the word out so people understand exactly how this is going to affect your life, that's why I brought up YouTube, because almost everyone uses YouTube and if you can relate the horror of this thing to something that people use all the time as opposed to- this isn't just a, 'Hey, don't copy DVDs, don't download movies illegally off the internet.' It goes much, much, much, much further than that.
MJ: Yeah, and we'll include this in the show notes. I shared it on Facebook, I don't know, I think you liked it, actually, but there's an organization that was partly started by Larry Lessig who used to be really big in the copyright space. He has since gone on to the influence of money and corruption in government as his issue, because he decided there's no way to fix copyright until you fix that broken system of the way government is financed and corrupted. So Rootstrikers is the organization. They have a campaign against the TPP, it looks like they are looking for another 781 people to take action on that one, so I already did, it'll be in the show notes. By then it might've gotten enough people but I still would encourage people to take action on this because I think it's hugely important, like you said, Matt. It's going to affect everybody's everyday lives.
MB: Absolutely and, like I said, even if you don't go to YouTube, even if you've never downloaded a song illegally or anything, trust me, this is going to affect your life, and it's not going to affect it in any good ways. Like I said at the beginning of the episode, if it had a positive impact, if it was going to have a positive impact on your life or a positive impact on the economy of a positive impact on anything, then they wouldn't be negotiating it in complete secrecy and they wouldn't want to try and ram it through without a vote, without anything. That's why...you know it's not a good law, the fact that nobody wants to have a debate, because as soon as you open it up to debate, people will realize what a pantload the whole thing is and they'll want it killed, so they're trying to do it as secretly as possible and as quickly as possible to get it out of the way.
MJ: It seems like every time the entertainment industry is defeated on something, like they were defeated on SOPA, they just shifted to somewhere else where, if they can, get it in the back door. And the analysis that I read on TPP is very much that it is them trying to get everything that they wanted in SOPA, in the ACTA, basically in the back door, that they couldn't get in in the front. And even those laws were- they tried to negotiate it in secret. It's just fortunately there's enough of a community now on the internet that is watching for this kind of stuff. You have folks like Larry Lessig, like Cory Doctorow, that talk about it. In my own little way, I try to do that, that's why you end up hearing so much about it, but the guys I work with now have triggered me a couple times to go into rant mode. But I think it's way more important than people realize, that a lot of copyright law grew up, legally-speaking, as intra-industry agreements. You know, the people that wrote sheet music, their agreement with the people who did the player piano roles. Laws that made sense for companies that were making profit don't make sense when they're applied to people that are just trying to interact with their culture. That's what these kinds of laws do. They apply that thinking down to that level. A lot of the industry defense of it is, 'Oh, blah, blah, blah, trade, this is a good trade agreement,' and you know what? If it were a good trade agreement, like you said, it should be able to be done in public.
MB: Yeah, absolutely, and before you think this is a Republican issue or a Democrat issue or whatever, there are people on both sides of the aisle that are for it and there are people on both sides of the aisle that are against it. Like with SOPA and PIPA, you had Rand Paul standing with Nancy Pelosi trying to get the thing killed, and any time those two get together you kind of have to go, 'Oh...what is that?' So we're not coming at it from a- at least, I'm not, I don't think you are either, this has nothing to do with whether you lean right or lean left or you're conservative because I've read articles from people who lean way left and lean way right that are even for it or against it. It would behoove you to at least look at what they're trying to do, look at some of the articles that we're going to share, and just be aware of when this thing starts to move. Hollywood and the MPAA, they're never going to give up, they're just not. They're going to keep trying to pass, whether they change the name or however they- they're going to keep trying to do this because they think it's in their best interest even though I disagree. They've been wrong on pretty much every major point they've ever tried to make and we've talked about this in previous podcasts where they were wrong about the VCR, they were wrong about live recorded music, they were wrong about Napster, they've just been wrong and they're going to be wrong about this too.
MJ: Yeah. I think it was in episode 44 quite a bit that we talked about- someone's economic wellbeing is dependent on them not understanding an issue. I think that was where I was using that quote, and I forget who said the quote originally, but basically if someone's economic wellbeing depends on them not understanding something, they don't, and my take on the entertainment industry has been that, because they think their economic livelihood is dependent on extracting every bit of profit and exerting every ounce of control, they will continue, like you said, to pursue this until the end of time and, really, until those people that think that way die off and you have people that, I think, now there's enough culture and there's enough awareness of how creativity works and that the older material tends to be the raw material for new stuff. If you look at the remix culture on YouTube, it's amazing and innovative and exciting and it's so much more vibrant, really, than the same recycled garbage that the mainstream entertainment industry churns out. I think, until you get the people that have come up through that entertainment industry running things, you're going to, like you said, keep seeing them attempt to enact these kinds of laws.
MB: They're so scared about any kind of a change until they have this business model and that's what we talked about in that episode, episode 44?
MB: Where they refuse to try and look at making money from a different angle. They have this set way that they make money or the way that they do things and, like you said, until the old starts to die off and some of the new people start to move in- what is it, the head of the MPAA is the old Senator Dodd? I believe.
MB: That guy is older than my parents and he's the guy who's in charge of the movie industry? You have to have somebody young who understands how this stuff works and having people who are in their sixties and seventies and eighties who are, before the internet was even conceived of, and these are the people we have making decisions on this kind of stuff? I always think back to, I have to help my parents or I had to help my grandparents use a computer, show them how to use an iPhone or whatever, and yet we're entrusting these people to determine what can and can't go on the internet. It's insane.
MJ: New episodes are released on Tuesdays and Thursdays, check back often. Thanks for listening.