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Leaked Draft of Trade Pact Stirs Up Outcry Among Digital Rights Groups

Digital rights groups are sounding the alarm over a proposed trade pact between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries they say will limit Internet freedom with a host of provisions to bolster intellectual property laws, some of which bring them into parity with U.S. copyright protection.

A draft of a portion of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement was posted online on Wednesday by Wikileaks. Much of the 95 pages focuses on intellectual property, including provisions in which all signatories would extend their copyright terms to the life of the author plus 70 years, and 95 years for corporate-owned works. That would be in line with the copyright term in the U.S. Also included are provisions prohibiting the circumvention of copy protected Blu Rays and DVDs, e-books and other goods.

The org Free Press says that the pact “caters to corporate interests that have little regard for our digital rights,” and compared it to efforts by the media industry to pass in the Stop Online Piracy Act, the proposed anti-piracy legislation that stalled out in Congress early last year in the face of an online protect and opposition from web giants like Google. In the Washington Post, Timothy B. Lee wrote that the draft shows several proposed items drawn “from Hollywood’s wish list.”

Michael O’Leary, senior executive vice president for global public policy and external affairs at the MPAA, said that it is “important to be clear that the text circulated is not final.”

“What the text does show though, if it is authentic, is that despite much hyperbole from free trade opponents, the U.S. has put forth no proposals that are inconsistent with U.S. law,” he said. “The United States has the most dynamic creative and technology sectors in the world, and an open and free Internet. The TPP proposals attributed to the U.S. would build upon that tremendous foundation.”

There’s also concern on Capitol Hill that the administration will “fast track” the trade pact and sign it before Congress gets a chance to vote on it. A group of 22 House Republicans on Tuesday sent a letter to Obama complaining that such authority gives the executive branch a way to “unilaterally write legislation.”

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