Mozilla stands up for public participation and openness in Trans-Pacific Partnership

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), like many modern trade deals, encompasses complex aspects of Internet policy, yet the voice of the Internet community is excluded from the nearly decade long negotiations. As a result, the balance shifts away from users and the public interest. It is our belief that effective global Internet policy and governance decisions can’t be made without openness and that the TPP’s processes fail in this regard.

The lack of open processes and public discussion is a primary concern for us because:

  • Global Internet policy issues, including copyright and free expression, are complex and impact the core of openness online in ways that can’t be solved in isolation;
  • Openness is core to both the Internet (including Internet governance) and Mozilla’s mission and values; and
  • When Internet policy decisions and processes lack openness, lack of participation means that user interests are often undervalued and underserved.

We have seen this same thing happen in the past. In January 2012, PIPA/SOPA attempted to create intellectual property policy without public input. At the end of the same year, the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) attempted to build Internet governance processes without a public role. In both cases, public pressure prevailed and defeated these threats to openness and public benefit. Our concern is that when these same threats come cloaked within trade deals, they may not be visible as threats until the damage has already been done.

In the final draft of the TPP, we see copyright losing ground with the balance tipping away from users and the public interest and towards businesses built on IP maximization. Provisions are strong where the rights of some major institutions and traditional business models are at stake, such as implementing software patent frameworks, expanding copyright terms (with retroactive effect), and establishing minimum damages for copyright infringement. Yet, the provisions that have been added to support the rights of the public are softer, including those related to public domain and limitations and exceptions to copyright.

End of January 2016, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) organized a strategy meeting on creating reform of trade negotiation processes — a two day summit held in Brussels. Over 30 diverse organizations – including Mozilla – came together to collectively discuss strategy and tactics on how to improve transparency in the negotiation processes for current and future trade deals. The result was a declaration being released today, which Mozilla has signed.

While we recognize there may be compelling reasons for sensitivity in some of the negotiations of the TPP and other trade agreements, our view is that these processes are not appropriate to resolve global Internet policy challenges. The future of Internet policy and governance issues must be determined through open and transparent processes that allow all voices to be heard and all rights to be fairly weighed. We look forward to working alongside other stakeholders to collectively forge needed reform of trade deals like the TPP.