The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Copyright

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Recently there has been renewed discussion about SOPA in fan circles, which the OTW has written about a number of times. Thanks to activism on the part of Internet users and the participation of various large, well known online sites, the legislation was shelved back in 2012.

However, while SOPA itself has not returned, some of the concepts behind SOPA re-appear like the heads on the Hydra, usually in connection to other actions by the U.S. government which may affect some, if not all, of the U.S.'s Copyright Act. Recent concerns seem to be connected to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks and who President Obama has nominated to join the team of U.S. negotiators.

Although the TPP contents have not been publicly released, there have been leaks about its content which is opposed by digital rights watchers. As our friends at the EFF state:

"TPP's completion becomes ever more tenuous as resistance to its corporate-driven policies continue to dissolve political support for the deal. Yet Obama's nomination of Holleyman suggests that his administration has no intention of removing the draconian copyright policies out of TPP no matter how unpopular or contentious they may be. It also reflects the greater issue at hand—the White House is choosing to heed the demands of Hollywood and other corporate giants and ignore the interests of users."

U.S. fans who are concerned about preserving their rights should contact their representatives in Congress to oppose Trade Promotion Authority. This creates special rules that empower the White House to negotiate and sign trade agreements without Congressional oversight, which also denies citizens the ability to influence or block those decisions as was done with SOPA and PIPA.

A concern about the repeated appearance of SOPA scare notices is that fans who spend time and energy on false alarms may overlook or decide to skip responding when events and issues truly need their voices. If you are asked to circulate information about copyright matters or legal action affecting fans, please check first with a trusted resource such as The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy & Technology, or the OTW first. If there is legislation or legal activity threatening fans' rights, you can be sure that one or more of these organizations will be actively trying to reach you with information about action you can take.

We also note that a number of large corporations, such as Google and Yahoo (who own tumblr) also have their own stake in preserving the status quo concerning Fair Use, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the current term of years of copyright ownership. They were active in the fight against SOPA in January of 2012, when the bill was stopped, and if the House and Senate again try to change the laws that they have built their businesses around, we expect that they will again lobby against it and inform their users about the issues.

If you have questions about legal matters related to fanworks and fan activities, you can always send a message to the OTW's legal team. We are advocates for and about fandom, and we will protect fans' rights to be creative and share their creativity noncommercially, and work to stop or overturn any laws that would block fans from doing so. You can also subscribe to OTW News through the platform of your choice to stay informed.

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h t t p : // flamewarflipsides . deviantart . com /art / SOPA-2014-Voluntary-Agreements-TPP-and-Staydown-439990931

h t t p s : / / petitions . whitehouse. gov /petition / stop-sopa-policies-trans-pacific-partnership-notice-and-staydown-efforts-and-other-policies /dXMRvNh8

Would this petition be the real one?

The DeviantArt post links to a WhiteHouse.gov petition which discusses current actions and has the added benefit of a target threshold that might result in an official response. It certainly wouldn't hurt to sign this petition but in this case, where copyright laws are made in the US Congress, the White House can do very little to make or pass legislation - especially when no bills are before either House of Congress, or any Congressional committees.

Therefore, participation in petitions is no substitute for staying informed about actual legislative and other lawmaking activity. As we discussed in this post, while petitions are great to make sure fans' voices are heard, they don't always reflect current lawmaking concerns, and can sometimes even be "crying wolf" without an emergency.

Of course, fans should participate in petitions they believe in. This is particularly true of those made on a site like WhiteHouse.gov that encourage citizen participation and can therefore be useful in raising awareness about the importance of an issue to a large body of people. But we also want to encourage fans to keep informed and--when a significant issue arises--make direct contact with elected officials. A much smaller group of people can have a more significant impact when contacting members of Congress than a much larger group signing petitions, and when legislation on copyright issues is on the tables at the House or the Senate, we will share that information, and recommended wording, with everyone.

Thanks for checking with us -- fans who are trying to get the word out about important issues are really important in helping all of us protect our rights as creators, consumers and citizens.

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