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TPP Defenders Take To The Internet To Deliver Official Talking Points; Inadvertently Confirm Opponents' Worst Fears

The leaked TPP draft, pried loose from the "open and transparent" grip of the USTR, is generating plenty of commentary all over the web. After getting a good look inside, it's little wonder the USTR felt more comfortable trying to push this through under the cover of darkness.

As the criticism of the push for IP maximalism mounts, the treaty's defenders have leapt into the fray, hoping to assure everyone who wasn't previously aware of the treaty's contents (which is pretty much everyone) that there's nothing to see here and please move along.

Mike recently broke down the ridiculous claims and posturing of the USTR's "talking points." Amanda Wilson Denton, counsel to the IIPA (International Intellectual Property Alliance) has showed up right on cue to "set the record straight" on the leaked TPP draft. Let's see how well she followed the talking points. (Talking points in bold.)

     

The Draft Is Already Outdated

    The only thing that can certainly be said about this draft is that it does not reflect the current state of the negotiations...

    If it is what it purports to be, the draft reveals a snapshot in time of the ongoing work of the participating countries to hammer out an agreement in Intellectual Property Rights…

Sure, it's only a "snapshot." But unless everything's changed since then, it's a very representative snapshot of the involved countries' stances on IP issues. Just because the work is "ongoing" doesn't mean its improving.

     

What It Would Not Require: Changes to U.S. IP Law

    While it is impossible to say right now what a TPP IP chapter would do, experience provides an answer for what it would not do -- since the U.S. began negotiating FTAs again in 2000, no FTA has required a change to U.S. intellectual property law.

    The U.S. proposals mirror the current duration of copyright in U.S. law. They track the provisions already agreed in previous FTAs regarding the technologies that rights holders use to control access to their works and limitations on liability to benefit ISPs, including the FTA agreed between the United States and Korea that entered into force in 2012…

    In sum, the putative U.S. positions revealed in the leaked text would be consistent with U.S. law and prior free trade agreements approved by Congress, and most importantly would help to achieve better copyright protection among our trading partners…

    While we understand that there are parties that don't like present U.S. law and policy, this leaked text demonstrates a fealty to existing U.S. law, and not an abandonment thereof.

So, if you love current US IP law (and wish it would be expanded), you'll love the TPP. If you don't, well… get used to it. The US is running your IP show now, foreigners.

Denton does admit there is one change to existing US law, something only a maximalist would be happy to see -- a provision that would allow rights holders to pursue criminal charges against those who "aid and abet" copyright infringement. Great news! That means you no longer have to actually infringe to be held criminally accountable. All you have to do is be adjacent to it.

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U.S. Government Caught Pirating Military Software, Settles For $50 Million

For years the U.S. military operated pirated copies of logistics software that was used to protect soldiers and shipments in critical missions. Apptricity, the makers of the software, accused the military of willful copyright infringement and sued the Government for nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in unpaid licenses. In a settlement just announced, the Obama administration has agreed to pay $50 million to settle the dispute.

In recent years the U.S. Government has taken an aggressive stance towards copyright infringement, both at home and abroad.

“Piracy is theft, clean and simple,” Vice President Joe Biden said when he announced the Joint Strategic Plan to combat intellectual property theft.

However, at the same time the Vice President was launching the new anti-piracy strategy, software company Apptricity was involved in a multi-million dollar piracy dispute with the Government.

In 2004 Apptricity signed a contract with the U.S. Army to license enterprise software that manages troop and supply movements. The deal allowed the Government to use the software on five servers and 150 standalone devices, and since then it has been used in critical missions all over the world.

“The Army has used Apptricity’s integrated transportation logistics and asset management software across the Middle East and other theaters of operation. The Army has also used the software to coordinate emergency management initiatives, including efforts following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti,” the company explains.

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Unpublished Salinger Books Leaked to Private File-Sharing Site

File-sharing sites and platforms of all kinds can be goldmines of unusual information and today fans of writer J. D. Salinger will be the ones getting particularly excited. Last evening three previously unreleased stories by the reclusive American author were uploaded to private BitTorrent tracker What.cd, including The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls, a piece previously under lock and key at the Princeton University Library. The stories are now widely available.

From very early in its life the Internet became a mine of amazing things, but while accessing information was relatively easy for most, becoming a publisher was a different matter.

Soon enough regular people learned the skills to put up a rudimentary webpage, but it wasn’t until the advent of mainstream file-sharing networks that anyone could become a publisher of information, simply by putting a file in a folder.

As a result countless pieces of media – from music and video, to documents, artwork and software – were distributed by individuals to every corner of the Internet-enabled globe.

Over the years many thousands of curiosities have appeared online in this manner, such as unfinished movies, unreleased songs, top-secret military documents, plus all manner of sundry ephemera subsequently given almost eternal life. Today, fans of writer J.D. Salinger will have something particularly extraordinary to talk about.

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Would You Download The Unpublished Works?

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Employment Boundaries:

"Databases That Contain Information About Suspected Shoplifters Can Hurt Innocent Job Applicants"

Shoplifting results in substantial loss of potential revenue for retailers across the nation, however, not all store merchandise is stolen by customers or the general public.

Retail employees sometimes steal merchandise from their own employers, so much so, that retailers are uniting to help stem the problem by using databases that may help them avoid hiring someone who has even been suspected of shoplifting in the past.

Retailers across the country are contributing information to databases about customers and employees suspected of, or caught stealing merchandise from their stores. There are several companies hosting and offering retailers access to these databases, including First Advantage Corporation.

Retail employers can enter a job applicant’s personal information and scan the database to see if any other retailers have reported problems with the employee, or person applying for a job. These databases have attracted the attention of tens of thousands of retailers as clients, including CVS, Target stores, and Family Dollar, who pay a membership fee for access.

Background check databases are legal in all states, however, the Federal Trade Commission has been handling multiple complaints about shoplifting databases and is currently investigating to ensure that such databases are in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. These shoplifting databases do not necessarily report on convictions, but also allow retailers to report on their own “findings” independent of the legal process.

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Do You Think That Corporations Should Be Keeping Databases About Suspected Crimes That Can Be Used In The Hiring Process?

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European Parliament Members Explore Decriminalizing File-Sharing

Frustrated by the lack of copyright reform in Europe, several Members of European Parliament have started a coordinated platform to urge the European Commission to update its outdated policy. The MEPs are looking for a more flexible copyright system which benefits European citizens and businesses, including the decriminalization of file-sharing for personal use. The first steps towards these goals are to be made during an event in Brussels on Tuesday.

The European Copyright Directive (Infosoc) dates back more than a decade.

At the time the Internet looked entirely different from how it does today and as a result many lawmakers believe that significant reforms are needed to bring legislation into line with present reality.

Last year several Members of the European Parliament sent a letter to the President of the European Commission to take up this issue.

“People all over the EU are increasingly concerned that the copyright system is no longer for them, and that many aspects of copyright law as it is currently applied, managed and interpreted by courts in the member states is not satisfactory or relevant,” the letter read.

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Promobay.org Now Allows Politics And Activism, Favs Migrate To Piratebay Frontpage

Pirate Bay Backs Disruptive Activists, Startups, Charity and More

A few months after The Pirate Bay stopped promoting artists on its frontpage the site is now embracing a much broader promo platform. The “reimagined” Promo Bay goes live today and in addition to helping artists it will also offer assistance to activists, charities and startups. “The main goal of the new Promo Bay is to draw attention to disruptive things happening around the world,” Promo Bay’s Will Dayble says.

The Pirate Bay is not particularly liked by most entertainment industry companies, but there are tens of thousands of artists who are eager to get a plug from the notorious torrent site.

...

“The main goal of the new Promo Bay is to draw attention to disruptive things happening around the world. Art, activism, charity, startups, the weird and wonderful, the game changers and indie,” Dayble tells TorrentFreak.

“We’re shifting how we work, play interact, speak, live and fall in love. Hopefully, we can reveal some of the good stuff to a wider audience,” he adds.

In addition to the broadened scope The Promo Bay also wants to open source their code. They further hope to add an option to track the impact of their promotion campaigns through in-swarm monitoring of the numbers of downloads and download locations.

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The PromoBay.org

We put videos about awesome stuff on the front page of The Pirate Bay, for fun, profit, art and the betterment of the human race.

Can anyone get involved?

Yes. As long as you can make a YouTube video about what you do. Try and pick a good category for your stuff. We prefer game-changing stuff. Go break an industry, bust a paradigm or do something ridiculous no-one else has.

Interesting new twist. Innumerable eyeballs hit that frontpage; think about what we could do with that.

SaA

Poll

How Do You Feel About Thier Decision To Include Politics and Activism?

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Antigua Still Threatening To Launch Its WTO-Endorsed Legal Piracy Site, But We've Heard That Before

In a dispute that's dragged on for over a decade, it appears that Antigua is, once again, making noises about how this time it's really, really, really going to do what the WTO has said it can do: set up a legal platform to infringe on American copyrights as a form of official payback for the US clearly violating a trade agreement with Antigua by outlawing online gambling. We've covered this dispute and all its twists and turns for years, but the short summary is that Antigua won at every turn, even as the US tried to once declare victory where it had lost. The US even tried to just say it could unilaterally change the trade agreement, which is not how those things work.

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Antigua Creating Platform To Monetise Suspended US IP Rights From WTO Case

The government of Antigua and Barbuda is said to be taking steps to set up a platform to allow the tiny Caribbean nation to monetise or otherwise take advantage of the suspension of US intellectual property rights, as it is permitted to do by a World Trade Organization dispute panel. The WTO panel had ruled that Antigua could make up its loss in IP rights for US measures blocking Antiguan online gambling in the US.

A WTO Remedies Implementation Committee in Antigua and Barbuda, made up of experts in IP and trade law, information technology, and economics has held a meeting “geared toward harvesting benefits” of the WTO case, according to a 23 October Antigua release. The committee is chaired by Attorney General Justin Simon, and includes Ambassador Colin Murdoch and chief legal counsel in the WTO matter, Mark Mendel.

“The Committee is said to be recommending the establishment by the Government of Antigua & Barbuda of a statutory body to own, manage and operate the ultimate platform to be created for the monetisation or other exploitation of the suspension of American intellectual property rights authorised earlier this year by the WTO,” the release said. It is understood that the necessary domestic legislation to implement the remedies is in the final stages of preparation for submission to Parliament.”

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WTO Allows Antigua to Open Piracy Site

Antigua and Barbuda have been given the power by the World Trade Organization to sell or give away U.S. copyrighted media downloads without compensation to the rights holders.

The WTO issued the ruling suspending U.S. copyrights in the islands late Monday, and is part of the fallout over a 2007 legal flap concerning online gambling.

Antigua’s lawyer, Mark Mendel, told Wired’s sister publication, Wired.co.uk, that he was unsure when a possible Pirate Bay-like website offering games, movies, software and movies might be up and running. “We are definitely working on it and are hopeful that the U.S. will choose to negotiate fairly and honestly in the very near future so that we do not ultimately have to implement the remedy,” he said.

   

The act would not be, as the United States is arguing, ‘theft’ or ‘government-authorized piracy,’ but a legitimate means for the Caribbean island to make back some of the billions in earnings lost when the U.S. violated a free-trade agreement that forced Antigua to shutdown its online gambling industry — reportedly putting 5 percent of the island’s 90,000-strong population out of work. The U.S. continues to refuse to lift this blockade.
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US warns Antigua and Barbuda over 'piracy site' plan

"The highest trade body in the world, having reviewed the merits of Antigua and Barbuda's case and its ability to recover from the negative impact of the USA's unilateral and discriminatory actions, has made its ruling," Carl Roberts told the BBC.

"Antigua and Barbuda has always reserved its privilege to utilise its legal rights on international law.

"This is one of our options as we continue to seek a fair and equitable resolution of our case."

He added that he objected to US's description of the planned site - which would sell movies, music and games without paying copyright fees to their US owners - as being "government-authorised piracy".

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RIAA and BPI Use “Pirated” Code on Their Websites

It turns out that even the most vocal anti-piracy advocates are guilty of infringing the copyrights of others on the Internet. TorrentFreak has discovered that the websites of the music industry groups RIAA and BPI have removed the copyright notices from popular web software, violating the open source licenses these scripts are distributed under.

Copyright is a double-edged sword, and those who sharpen one side often get cut by the other.

Two weeks ago we reported that the new Healthcare.gov website had stripped the copyright notice from one of the scripts it used. This blatant act of ‘piracy’ prompted us to take a closer look at the websites of several anti-piracy organizations, and today we present our findings.

As it turns out the U.S. Government is not the only one violating copyright licenses. The websites of music industry groups RIAA and BPI also use infringing code.

On both sites we found open source JQuerys scripts that are released under the MIT license. This license permits any person or organization to use, copy, modify, merge, distribute, or even sell copies of the software. There’s only one condition users have to agree to; that the original copyright notice stays intact.

Ironically, the scripts used on the RIAA and BPI websites have the copyright licenses removed.

[...]

Instant Update: A final check upon publication revealed that RIAA and BPI both fixed the infringements, probably more swiftly than the average website processes DMCA requests. Neither group provided a comment on the copyright violations.

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Ha!
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GOP Politician and Attorney Accused of Being a “For Dummies” Book Pirate

Over the past several years publisher John Wiley has been tracking down alleged pirates of its ‘For Dummies’ series in order to settle for a few thousand dollars. While many of its targets fade into obscurity as yet another statistic in the piracy war, a rather interesting one has now risen to prominence. GOP elections commissioner Ralph M. Mohr says he’s innocent and intends to put up a fight to clear his name.

Following in the footsteps of the RIAA, dozens of porn publishers and lesser-known movie studios, in 2011 John Wiley and Sons became the first book publisher to chase down alleged file-sharers in the United States.

The company has filed well over a dozen lawsuits in U.S. courts, together targeting hundreds of so-called John Doe defendants. Wiley is famous for its “For Dummies” series of books and the defendants in these actions are all accused of downloading or sharing the titles without permission.

Wiley attorney William Dunnegan previously told TorrentFreak that the company’s approach has three aims – to educate, obtain settlements, and prevent further infringement of the company’s products.

While it’s not possible to say how many of Wiley’s targets have chosen to settle, there are some that dig in their heels and refuse to pay up. As reported here in 2012, at least three Doe defendants were named by Wiley, with the company threatening to take their cases to jury trial.

One of those was the innocuous-sounding Ralph Mohr, but throw in a previously-unlisted middle initial, and one discovers that far from being just another defendant primed to be squeezed for a few thousand dollars, this one has public standing.

Ralph M. Mohr is a Republican commissioner on the Erie County Board of Elections. According to Wiley, the politician is also guilty of pirating one of their books, Essential Calculus For Dummies.

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Obama Administration Uses Pirated Code on Healthcare.gov

The new Obamacare website Healthcare.gov has had its fair share of problems over the past weeks, and the trouble continues.

As it turns out, the Government website uses the open source software DataTables, which is a plug-in for the jQuery Javascript library.

While using open-source software is fine, the makers of Healthcare.gov decided to blatantly remove all references to its owners or the original copyright license.

In other words, they simply took the open-source software and are passing it off as their own, a clear violation of the GPL v2 and BSD (3-point) licenses DataTables uses.

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New Patent Reform Bill Targets So-called Trolls

New patent reform legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday aims to make it more difficult for so-called patent trolls to file infringement lawsuits.

The Innovation Act, sponsored by Representative Bob Goodlatte, incorporates provisions in several other bills, introduced in recent months, targeting patent-licensing businesses that use infringement lawsuits as a major source of potential revenue. Tech groups have called in recent months for Congress to discourage the growing number of infringement lawsuits filed by patent-licensing firms, and several trade groups, along with digital rights groups Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, praised Goodlatte’s bill.

The bill’s several provisions will “really help put an end to this dangerous business model that threatens us all,” said Julie Samuels, an EFF senior staff attorney.”Taken together, what they will do is make that business model a less attractive business model.”

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Another Reason to Hate TPP: It Gives Big Content New Tools to Undermine Sane Digital Rights Policies
In previous posts we've covered many of the ways the copyright provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade deal between 12 Pacific countries, could undermine users' rights. But those are just the tip of the iceberg. What may really sink the Titanic is a rather obscure but very dangerous section covering foreign investment.

Like the rest of the TPP, we only know what has been leaked. Based on that, it seems the negotiators are poised to give private corporations new tools to undermine national sovereignty and democratic processes. Specifically, TPP would give multinational companies the power to sue countries over laws that that might diminish the value of their company or cut into their expected future profits.
Stop Secret Copyright Treaties

The provision that gives them this power is called “investor-state dispute settlement” (or ISDS for short). The policy was originally intended to ensure that investments in developing countries were not illegally expropriated by “rogue” governments, thereby encouraging foreign investment. But what began as a remedy to a specific problem has since been co-opted to serve very different purposes. Under investor-state, if a regulation gets in the way of a foreign investor’s ability to profit from its investment, the investor can sue a country for monetary damages based on both alleged lost profits and “expected future profits.” There are no monetary limits to the potential award.

Apparently a country’s own courts can’t be trusted to administer this kind of lawsuit, so investor-state also requires the creation of a new court. It would be comprised of three private-sector attorneys who take turns being judge and/or corporate advocate.

Even if this kangaroo court ruled in favor of the defendant nation, court costs alone would scare countries from adopting (or enforcing) pro-user policies where they might potentially inhibit investor profits. The investor-state tribunal bills its time by the day and decides for itself how many days to work, so it can rack up as many days of work they want. Given this system, it's then no surprise that current investor-state court costs average about 8 million dollars per case. So even if it wins, the country has to pay those court fees, the lawyer fees, plus compound interest. That’s money that would doubtless be better spent elsewhere.

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