Why The TPP Means You'll Pay More For Your Internet Access

If Australia signs onto the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in its current form, we could all end up paying more for our internet connection. University of Melbourne researcher Suelette Dreyfus explains why.

Router picture from Shutterstock

Last week Michael Froman, a US trade representative, took his son touring around the Paramount lot in Hollywood to visit a sound mixing stage, watch a movie and pose for happy snaps with company executives.

The VIP movie lot tour, with personal touches, illustrates how close the US trade office and the movie production companies have become, and exactly who is pushing for a controversial trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim countries including Australia.

The innocuously named Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is about expanding the revenues of large Hollywood movie companies and music publishers.

The TPP may effectively force the entire Internet Service Provider (ISP) industry to become the street cops for the movie and music industry. This will be expensive and intrusive.

Specifically the TPP may force ISPs to:

  • 'filter' all their internet communications, prowling through all our online interactions on the hunt for any possible copyright infringement
  • hand over the identity of alleged infringers – not to the police – but to the copyright holders (usually the movie or music companies)
  • censor sites that could possibly be engaged in copyright infringement

ISP customers could suddenly have their accounts terminated where complaints against them for infringement have been made.

Having ISPs monitor copyright infringement is the equivalent of a shoplifter stealing a CD from a music store, driving away down a toll road, and then expecting the private tollway operator to stop and search every car on the highway for stolen goods. This is not the tollway operator's responsibility.

The motion picture and music publishing industries should pay for and manage their own security to protect their commercial goods, just as a department store pays to put security tags on its dresses.

Or better still they could simply trial new models for making money in the face of technology-led change.

The TPP is the latest in a long line of heavy-handed manoeuvring by US companies. Before this was the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and the much reviled SOPA.

The revelations of just how draconian the TPP's provisions are have caused uproar in other close allies, generating this damning editorial in the New Zealand Herald.

In the US, citizens groups are vocally objecting because the TPP does not benefit Americans so much as a handful of American companies at the cost of American citizens.

One of the most insidious aspects of the TPP is how it will override Australian sovereignty.

Last April, the High Court of Australia made a ruling on the issue of whether ISPs should be liable if a user downloads illegal content in the iiNet ISP case.

The court found iiNet had no direct technical power to prevent users from obtaining content illegally.

While iiNet could terminate an infringing client's account, it was still possible for that same client to open up a new internet account elsewhere and access infringing material, the Court said.

"this circumstance shows the limitations on iiNet's power to command a response from its customers, or to prevent continuing infringements by them." – High Court ruling

In this landmark case, iiNet had refused to act on "take-down" notices because the information provided in those notices was not sufficient. The TPP would override this ruling.

The TPP would encourage large US companies to go on extended fishing exercises though the customer lists of Australian ISPs, an expensive exercise for the ISP and the customer.

If the customer is an infringer, they simply move on to another provider. Meanwhile the Australian ISP has had to engage in a fruitless and expensive exercise to monitor the content, and at the same time has lost a subscriber.

The TPP will ask ISPs to police what is un-policeable, and the only people punished will be the ISPs and the subscriber, with little to no proven impact on the bottom line of the copyright holder.

If the foreign music and movie industries are worried about piracy, they can decide to invest in improving their product's security – like any other business does. It is neither fair nor right they should ask any other industry to pay what should rightly be their own expense.

Most worrying is the larger social impact. The TPP would negatively impact on freedom of expression. It would create another level of surveillance on the subscriber and prevent an ISP from selling its service free from intervention.

And it would make access to the internet more expensive as ISPs would increase charges to cover the new requirements.

The internet is our most important communication tool; making it harder to access or use impacts negatively on freedom of speech.

Attorney General George Brandis recently declared himself a champion of free speech, and evidenced this with plans to peel back racial discrimination laws. Will he prove himself the same free speech advocate when it comes to protecting ISPs and the internet?

The TPP is bad for Australian businesses, the economy, and most importantly of all, consumers.

Suelette Dreyfus is a Research Fellow in Department of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne. She does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The ConversationThis article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.


    It's disgraceful, but no one is aware or cares. Do you see this on mainstream media?

      Reason why the media aren't all over this is because it serves Rupert Murdoch's interests.
      His got his finger in this pie.

        We'll start our own media empire. With blackjack, and hookers!

          James Packer... is that you???

            James Packer checklist:

            [ ] Speedos
            [ ] Walks like Bigfoot

            Grayda checklist:

            [ ] Blackjack
            [ ] Hookers

            I don't think I'm James Packer

              You forgot under James Packer:

              [ ] Owns casinos (or wants to)
              [ ] Sleeps with hot women despite being butt ugly (moneh moneh moneeeeh MONEH!)

    Great article..!
    Surely someone has explained this to our pollies..? Common sense, although not in general use when it comes to politicians, will win out, and this shit stopped..! Are there any ISP's and tech Gurus actually approaching our Gov't and explaining the folly of this,...?

      It's pretty crappy, but even with the ALP in charge, this was still a go-ahead with 'caveats'.

      Not that we know what they were then, or now with the Libs.

    Best way to protest this if it goes through - stop paying for movies/music/etc except through independant channels. Pirate like crazy. Share like crazy. Encourage others to do the same. Make it insanely effortless for people to indulge in pirated copies of media backed by the industry mafia.

      I have to agree here. I pay for Foxtel go for the sport, I pay for all my games, I pay for movies I go and see, but the area that I am being let down is digital media distribution. I can use spotify to listen to all the music I want for a monthly fee and it's great, but the movie industries refuse to come to the table and accept that this is the future model of media distribution. They want it their way and screw everyone else. Well if they want to try and infringe on the rights of the citizens of numerous countries to make their profits, I fully support bypassing them entirely and doing anything at all to screw them over back. You don't keep customers by force. You need to give them a reason to want to purchase something off you. In this case that would be decent, affordable, and easy access digital distribution.

      I haven't pirated a game since steam became good. I haven't pirated a song since Spotify became available to me. I'm more than happy to pay for my media if I'm getting it easily and affordably.

      Thirded. And I have no doubts that in addition to all the other awful shit the TPP is going to enable - the least of which is allowing companies to sue governments if they don't like a law and want it changed, so say goodbye to minimum wages and unfair dismissal laws - it will be used to interfere with services like Spotify, Netflix, and all the other on-demand media outlets. And I also have no doubts that it will be used to interfere with or stop digital distribution - which is disappointing, because digital distribution without geoblocking and for a reasonable price is basically all you need to kill piracy. (Insert obligatory mention of Netflix here.)

      Also, it's pretty likely that a lot of social media would get blocked (thanks to that 'possible copyright infringement' part - and that also makes it sound like they aren't even going to bother verifying it or offering the site a chance to remove the material first) and I will be extremely disappointed in everyone if there isn't a riot or at least mass civil disobedience as a result of that. Hell, I'm disappointed by the lack of protest marches already.

      This is not just about copyright. It goes into every part of our society. While a lot of the document itself is in legal-ese, there's plenty of in-depth analyses of what we do know is in the TPP and none of it is good.

    It is insidious - a thinly veiled attempt to legitimise internet surveillance - part of the many moves by the US and its slave countries (UK, Australia, NZ, Canada, etc) to a) control the Western world, b) further limit citizens basic rights, and c) increase surveillance on people.

    Despite the Snowden revelations, the US continues to suppress people's rights, putting forward feeble arguments (such as 'terrorism'), that few people believe, to justify the oppression. This time it is Hollywood & the music industry that has paid large sums of money to lobby for restrictions. Big business over little people.

    If the TPP succeeds, it will force internet users to create new ways of circumventing government controls - we will all end up using Tor and other sophisticated methods of masking our internet activities. I think we probably need to anyway - just to protect our privacy.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now