07/12/2012 06:24 EDT | Updated 09/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Dragged Before a Judge Just for Clicking on the Wrong Link?


On Tuesday, the 13th round of negotiations closed for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a trade deal for Pacific Rim countries. At the same time, unbeknownst to them, citizens entered a new world of threats to their digital rights.

These negotiations focused on the Intellectual Property (IP) chapter of the deal -- a trap being set by industry lobbyists. By following the promise of trade and prosperity, we are being lured into a future where our digital rights are used as a bargaining chip by unelected lobbyists and trade representatives, and negotiated away to anti-democratic tribunals. And we won't just lose rights -- many of our commonplace online activities will likely be criminalized.

Imagine a world where you could receive a fine, and possibly be dragged before a judge, just for clicking on the wrong link, or where big media companies could demand your private online information. Leaked TPP drafts we've obtained suggest this is the world industry lobbyists are creating, through a closed-door process that excludes not just citizen input, but also the input of our elected representatives. During this round, over 130 Democratic members of Congress called for greater transparency, including access to the IP proposals, highlighting the frightening truth that even congressmen and members of Parliament don't have access to the negotiations or the drafts.

In addition to its lack of transparency -- which sidelines civil society and disregards core values of democratic rule-making -- the TPP would fundamentally change the Internet. The leaked draft agreement would give big media new powers to lock users out of their own content and services, and to shut down websites and remove content, thereby blocking users and entrepreneurs from enjoying the benefits of the open Internet.

Here in Canada, our government looked at giving this kind of control to big media as an option, yet the public opposition (including over 65,000 signatures on the C-11-focused petition) led them to decide against it. Now, we know from leaked documents that lobbyists intend to circumvent domestic judicial systems by reintroducing these new restrictions and laws through international agreements, without an open, public process where citizens could help decide. And once this Internet trap is set, there's no going back.

What's more, negotiators are talking about creating a dispute resolution process that would grant big media and other corporations special authority to challenge state law, regulations and court decisions in international tribunals. The implementation of this closed dispute resolution process could cement new Internet restrictions into place, and lead to a steady race to the bottom for entrepreneurship, free expression and our digital rights.

Groups like OpenMedia and people from around the world are coming together to dismantle this trap before we're caught in it forever. Our demands for the TPP process are simple and modest: it should be open and transparent with active participation from all affected stakeholders; it should not expand the power of Big Media and other corporations, including their ability to criminalize or otherwise restrict the use of the Internet; and it should not create an online environment that lets big media invade our privacy, remove online content on demand, saddle us with heavy fines, or terminate our access to the Internet.

The best way to avoid a trap is to ensure it is never set. Negotiators are seeking to finalize the TPP in the coming months, but we know from experience that we can stop threats to the Internet in their tracks through vocal public support for our digital rights. People around the world simply want access to the open Internet. Join the global pro-Internet movement by speaking out against the TPP's secretive anti-Internet agenda at

OpenMedia is a grassroots organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open and affordable Internet worldwide. Reilly Yeo is the Managing Director of OpenMedia. Steve Anderson is the Founder and Executive Director of OpenMedia.