Trans Pacific Agreement Threatens Internet Freedom

Monday, 15 February 2016 , 13:00:00 WIB - Opinions

Demonstrators and their banners are protesting against Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday (4/2). (ANTARA)

Oleh: Firdaus Cahyadi *)

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement is a threat to the national Internet freedom on behalf of copyright protection.

"The Indonesian economy is an open economy. Indonesia boasts a population of 250 million people and is the strongest economy in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is interested to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)," said President Joko Widodo, in a joint press release with US President, Barrack Obama, at the White House, Washington DC, recently.

Jokowi’s interest should be viewed skeptically as the agreement is receiving a lot of resistance in the country of the signees, not excluding in the US. People in the US say the TPP provides an entry for corporations to stage a coup d’etat against the government.

One of the interesting points in the TPP is the one that tightens the regulation regarding Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), which includes copyrights and patents. The agreement extends the copyright of a book from 50 years to 70 years since the death of the author, which complicates the public’s access to the content. Meanwhile, patent for drugs would be extended to more than 20 years, which restrains the public’s access to the cheaper generic drugs. The latter is clearly pro-corporation while sacrificing the interest of the public.

Another issue, the TPP may ‘kill’ Internet freedom on behalf of patents. Through the Internet, the public has been enjoying the freedom of sharing and acquiring information and knowledge.

TPP has some repressive rules regarding patents. If Indonesia joins the TPP, internet providers would easily block websites on grounds that they are protecting a patented product, despite the fact that the case has not been brought to the court of justice.

The question is, why are developing nations, especially the US, seem so eager to ‘export’ such repressive rule about copyrights?

Turns out, developed nations are the primary exporters of patented products. In the book industry, for instance, in 1998, the US exported the most books (contributing 20 percent to the global export), followed by the UK (17 percent), Germany (10 percent) and Singapore (3 percent) (Hanim, TWN, 2011). Meanwhile, developing nations such as Indonesia are usually importers of patented products.

Hence, on one hand the repressive regulation will benefit industries who own the patent while, on the other, it violates the international standards of human rights regarding the rights to information and knowledge.

*) The writer is the Executive Director of OneWorld-Indonesia