The ISDS written into the Trans-Pacific Partnership / TPP is really not at all hard to understand. It’s just impossible to like. Public Citizen covers the details nicely; see– Investor-State Attacks.
The ISDS written into the Trans-Pacific Partnership / TPP is really not at all hard to understand. It’s just impossible to like. Public Citizen covers the details nicely; see– Investor-State Attacks.
The attitude that politics doesn’t matter seems nearly universal sometimes. Big shrug from you, maybe? I won’t hold it against you. Scratching out a living is tougher than ever, and ignoring things that aren’t screaming in your face is simply a survival instinct. Also, part of the equation is that many powerful entities are quite happy to keep you disinterested, and are making sure of it by delivering an ever-increasing stream of useless information shamefully labeled “news” that helps foster this attitude that not a damned bit of it matters, that nothing ever changes, that it’s all just another 24-hour news cycle, that today is just the same as yesterday, and tomorrow will be exactly the same as today.
The New York Times has unfortunately gone over to the dark side, and mostly completed its transition from journalistic riches to rag by doing what most mainstream media outlets have done– tell you little of substance about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) while very occasionally repeating some of the generic selling points coming from the major corporate interests that are behind it. They’re not completely lost, however, and did one good thing this past week– they published an excellent series of articles on Arbitration.
Stacking the Deck of Justice (First of Three Articles)
Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Robert Gebeloff. New York Times. Oct. 31, 2015
. . . clauses buried in tens of millions of contracts have deprived Americans of one of their most fundamental constitutional rights: their day in court.
Having done this, it would be a beautiful and magical thing for the Times to connect the dots and follow up with an exposé on how THE TPP IS ALL ABOUT ARBITRATION ON A GLOBAL SCALE. Almost every article critical of the TPP expresses grave concern over the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS), which essentially gives corporate interests the ability to avoid U.S. courts by sending disputes to arbitration. Maybe there’s a series of full-spread articles just about to be published by the Times, that will help to make up for their many months of lousy / minimal coverage. That would be great.
On the other hand, if the New York Times decides to continue with their minimization of the TPP, I would suggest visiting Public Citizen, Naked Capitalism, or the Intercept to see what the Times is not telling you about that big light streaking across the sky.
On Friday, the NYT very conveniently published yet another article demonstrating how they are promoting the TPP. Obama Pushes New Pacific Trade Pact Ahead of Asia Trip. Peter Baker. Nov. 13, 2015
If you want to sell some rusty old wheezer of a used car or other lemon while camouflaging your article as “news,” Peter Baker hits all the right notes–
Well done, Peter Baker and the New York Times.
I haven’t bothered writing much about the Graphic Artists Guild this past year, mostly to preserve my peace of mind and save energy for more productive matters, but every now and then something comes to my attention that tempts me to write more about them. A recent news item posted by the Guild about Milt Glaser’s climate change message, “It’s not Warming, It’s Dying” finally caused a big enough spike on my irony-o-meter for me to go to the trouble, not to mention that with Earth Day being here the timing’s exactly right.
Milt’s work is great and I love it, but it kills me that the Guild can talk about climate while at the same time their Copyright Alliance friends are up to no good when it comes to the environment. In case you haven’t visited my previous posts or learned this elsewhere, the Copyright Alliance is a front group created largely by associates of former Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) and his lobbying firm, the Nickles Group LLC, that caters to the interests of a few corporate interests and not so much those of the individual creators as they frequently claim. Despite knowing this the Guild continues to support them and has sent them a fair amount of money. (Directly to the D.C. office of the Nickles Group, as a matter of fact.) Sen. Don Nickles is a staunch conservative and longtime opponent of organized labor, workplace safety regulation, affordable healthcare, equal rights, and he has supported ALEC and other conservative causes during and after his time in the U.S. Senate, making it not the least bit surprising that both he and the people around him have quite a track record on the environment.
The Copyright Alliance has been advocating for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which has been widely denounced as a serious threat to laws protecting the environment both within the U.S. and around the world. This effort by the Alliance is part of a larger campaign by the MPAA and the other corporations it serves to get the TPP passed.
The Nickles Group Lobbies for Koch Industries. Other high profile fossil fuel clients of the Nickles Group: Anadarko Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, and National Oilwell Varco.
Don Nickles has been a vocal opponent of renewable energy, recently pushing for the elimination of tax credits for renewable energy producers.
Don Nickles was a board member of fracking giant Chesapeake Energy, which has not only polluted aquifers, but also screwed landowners with abusive pipeline contracts while doing it. Nickles resigned from the Chesapeake board in 2012, however, after being involved in CEO Aubrey McClendon’s troubles. It appears he’s still on Valero’s board of Directors.
Mitch McConnell’s new policy director is Hazen Marshall, a top aide to Don Nickles, and until taking the new position had been a lobbyist at the Nickles Group serving their oil and gas clients. If you heard about Sen. McConnell’s call for states to block President Obama’s initiatives on climate change, well then, you now know of one of the players behind the scenes who might have had a hand in formulating that bit of politicking.
The Nickles Group’s top client is the notorious patent troll Intellectual Ventures LLC, reported to be attacking the renewable energy industry. Intellectual Ventures has been harshly criticized for its modus operandi of threatening businesses with expensive lawsuits unless licenses to the patents owned by IV are purchased. Tech industry startups have been particularly hard hit by trolls; a past epidemic of poorly defined and very broadly written patents on items such as software code and other new technologies not sufficiently understood at the patent office has handed Intellectual Ventures and other trolls the opportunity to demand victims purchase licenses to dubious patents, or risk wasting millions on a legal fight even if they stand to win in court. This bloodsucking is now being done to companies in the renewable energy business with the help of the Nickles Group. Here’s the punch line- Cindi Tripodi, a key architect of the Copyright Alliance, is a founding partner of the Nickles Group and one of the lobbyists helping Intellectual Ventures do its damage to renewable energy.
So maybe now you’ll understand why I don’t take the people at the Graphic Artists Guild to be all that environmentally conscious. At some point I’ll probably also get worked up enough to write more about how they’re also not entirely credible when it comes to copyright and the economic interests of individual creators.
(P.S.- I must have done something right in a past life, because HBO just aired “Last Week Tonight” in which John Oliver did a marvelous job explaining patent trolls. Must see!)
Here, have some cheese.
Don’t mind the stuff connected to it that you can’t quite see or don’t understand. Trust me, it’s safe. Think of the darkness as comforting. But if you just can’t help yourself and still feel a little apprehensive despite repeated assurances that it’s perfectly safe, and tasty, and safe, you can always learn a little bit more about it.
Robert Scott. Fast Track to Lost Jobs and Lower Wages. Huffington Post. April 12, 2015
George Zornick. Now Congress is Fast-Tracking the TPP Fast Track. Nation. April 16, 2015
The Trans-Pacific Partnership continues to spook a growing number of people, and today Wikileaks dumped a ton of fuel on the fire by publishing the chapter of the TPP that covers copyright and intellectual property rights. In addition to the Wikileaks bombshell, 151 house Democrats sent a letter to the President today, declaring their opposition to “fast track” trade negotiation authority on TPP.
Here are resources with further details.
Last but not least, here’s a video on why all this business about the TPP should be important to you. (Discussion on TPP begins at 13:27, after drone warfare segment)
Negotiations on both the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) continue to roll along, despite the federal government being shut down. Too bad; our current, truly epic storm surge of political bull crap could really use a silver lining. I’ve posted below a few more resources on these trade agreements for you that help explain just how potentially harmful they could be to everyone’s rights and livelihoods.
If you were aware of the dangers of SOPA, or feel copyright law is important to your business, you should be paying attention to these trade deals as much as any other developments in U.S. law.
Democracy Now! Video: “A Corporate Trojan Horse”: Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws
(NOTE: Originally published June 20, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013. The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)
If you’re interested in the big picture of copyright and IP policy, and wish to know a little bit about the political sausage-grinding that will likely have an impact on the graphic arts industry, not to mention the U.S. economy and citizen’s rights, here are a few items you might want to dig into:
There’s additional background information on Public Knowledge’s TPP page. If you watched the video or are already aware of MPAA’s and RIAA’s support for SOPA/PIPA and now TPP, then you’re probably not very comfortable with the Graphic Artists Guild’s support for them through their front group, the Copyright Alliance. While the Guild is very quiet about its membership in the Alliance, please note how the Guild’s logo is prominently displayed on the Copyright Alliance Members’ page.
In addition to the TPP continuing to roll along, there have been two noteworthy events in the past several days;
(Huffington Post, June 20, 2013.) Michael Froman, President Obama’s pick for USTR, will be overseeing negotiations on TPP and upcoming trade deals between the U.S. and Europe. He was overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate, with all Republican senators voting yes, and only 4 Democrats voting no. However, the dissenters Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI) Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have some serious concerns about the current lack of transparency in trade negotiations and Froman’s lack of support for more public disclosure.
I spent a couple hours watching C-SPAN’s coverage of the Senate confirmation hearing for nominee Thomas Wheeler on Tuesday. (C-SPAN Videos- Part I, Part II) While he appeared thoughtful and sympathetic to concerns across a wide spectrum of political viewpoints, (something all nominees have a tendency to do) I have more homework to do on him, since there will be some very large questions concerning copyright, net neutrality, corporate mergers, and god-knows what else coming before him as chair of the FCC. His background as a lobbyist, investor, and corporate telecom executive has raised some eyebrows; see the New York Times editorial of May 08, 2013- An Industry Man for the FCC.
(NOTE: Originally published Oct. 26, 2012, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013. The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)
If you’ve been around the Guild for any length of time, or are serious about making a living as an illustrator, then you are of course familiar with the basics of copyright. You probably know the drill when it comes to registering works with the U.S. Copyright Office, and likely have attended one or more lectures on copyright such as those hosted by our chapter. If you’ve been around the block as an illustrator, then maybe you’ve even hired an attorney to help solve a copyright-related business issue, and so experienced the thrilling complexities of the law first-hand.
The thing is, there’s a lot more to copyright than just those everyday aspects such as registering and managing the usage of your intellectual property. Of course there is; how could there not be?! After all, copyright law has everything to do with who owns stuff, who profits, and how business gets done around the globe. It is therefore tangled up in many of the other social, economic, and political controversies happening all around us; money in politics and corporate influence; erosion of free speech and other constitutional rights; complex and potentially dangerous global trade policies; control and abuse of technology; and disruptions to both domestic and international labor markets.
The research I did on the Copyright Alliance brought home to me that there are serious and important battles being fought over copyright, going on right now in government offices, corporate board rooms, and in the courts. If you are a Guild member, pay attention; some of your dues money* has gone to the Copyright Alliance, allegedly to help strengthen copyright protections for artists and illustrators. However, since it turns out that the Alliance is a front group for corporate interests, namely big media and telecom giants such as the MPAA, COMCAST, and AT&T, you might not be very happy when I tell you that your money also went to support a few things you’d be less likely to approve of: erosion of the FCC’s net neutrality policies that prevent Comcast and other major service providers from gaining excessive control over the internet; support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which might do further harm to democratic controls on international trade, already damaged by NAFTA, CAFTA, and other treaties; and support for SOPA, that thoroughly disgraced attempt to alter internet protocols for the purpose of increasing corporate control over web content.
The Copyright Alliance is only one of the many species of animals in the copyright jungle that are working hard to alter laws and policies to suit their interests. I’ve assembled below something of a scouting report on the critters and the terrain I encountered while researching the Copyright Alliance, and have also included a few links and resources to help you figure things out for yourself. Good luck with that!
While way too numerous and nuanced to list individually, they can be divided into a few general categories:
Maximalists. Corporate interests mostly, seeking rock-solid protections for what they currently own, control over the means to access both their stuff (and everyone else’s), the suppression of competition, and the ability to cheaply acquire all the stuff they don’t yet own.
Minimalists. Consumer-oriented interests that would like access to everything at no cost.
Economic Hybrids. Businesses that both use and produce creative works, or have multiple and competing interests affected by copyright: educational institutions, artists and graphics professionals, and a wide variety of companies in industries such as communications, design, and advertising.
Citizens. Everyone and anyone interested or concerned about free speech, corporate influence in government, the rights of employees, social values connected to technology, communications, and other elements affected by copyright law.
Here are some terms that relate to past battles fought over copyright, are still being fought, or might be coming soon to a jungle clearing near you. While some controversial proposals for copyright legislation have apparently come and gone, such as orphan works, there’s a chance that they could come back to life in the future; it all depends on circumstance and how much money is at stake. Yes, it does appear that this jungle is inhabited by zombies!
Copyright Act of 1976
Copyright renewal Act of 1992
WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)
DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act)
Copyright term extension
DRM (Digital Rights Management)
SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act)*
Digital / Internet Piracy*
ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)*
TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement)*
* Items you should pay particular attention to.
LINKS AND RESOURCES.
Resources 1. Maximalists
Center for Copyright Information
Copyright Clearance Center
Global Intellectual Property Center
Book: Robert Levine. Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back.
Resources 2. Everyone Else: Hybrids, Minimalists, Citizens.
(You’ll have to decide for yourself who’s who!)
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Chilling Effects Clearinghouse
Book: Peter Decherney. Hollywood’s Copyright Wars: From Edison to the Internet.
Book: Jason Mazzone. Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law.
Book: William Patry. How to Fix Copyright.
e-book: The Sky is Rising. (Suggests that online profit potential is rising, despite digital piracy fears).
Video online: Bill Moyers & Company. Elections for Sale.
(This episode includes a discussion on how non-profit organizations are distorting the democratic process. Relevant when considering the impact that non-profits are having in the battles over copyright).
Miscellaneous Links. Research Tools, Technical and Government Resources to help you find stuff.
OpenSecrets.org Look up data on lobbyists and campaign contributions.
Sunlight Foundation Watchdog on government activities
Sourcewatch Look up data on political groups and individuals.
WhoLobbiesUs Data required to be publicly disclosed by lobbyists to U.S. Senate.
PR Watch Center for Media and Democracy.
Thomas.gov Look up information on specific legislation.
IRS Exempt Organization search Find tax information on specific non-profit organizations.
Columbia University Libraries Copyright Quick Guide. Good summary of copyright law and best practices.
U.S. Copyright Office The official scoop on copyright.
(*National officers claimed that this statement is untrue, that the Graphic Artists Guild’s annual $5000 payments for membership in the Copyright Alliance have come from reprographic rights royalty money. However, while I was a member of the Guild’s International Board of Directors, no document was ever produced that separated usage of dues from reprographic royalty funds. This includes the official budget proposal documents presented to the International Board of Directors for the Guild’s November 2012 Annual Convention. See my March 13, 2013 post Reprographic Royalties for some background information.)
(NOTE: Originally published Sept. 13, 2012, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013. The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)
After a long summer break, it’s about time to get things going at the IAG again. I’ll begin by providing a few updates; first, I finally completed a report on the Copyright Alliance that I had started way back in March. I originally hoped to have it wrapped up long before now, but unfortunately it took me down a much deeper rabbit hole than I had anticipated, on a journey through labor law, right-wing politics, and the sordid business of lobbying in Washington D.C. I was motivated to write the report while following the progress of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) that died a well-deserved death this past spring, which the Guild briefly supported after maybe taking its cue from the Copyright Alliance. (The Graphic Artists Guild is currently an executive member of the Alliance). My report lays out details showing the Alliance to be a front group for a select clique of corporate interests, that operates out of a Washington D.C. lobbying firm headed by Senator Don Nickles, a staunch conservative from Oklahoma. The conclusion I reached is that the Graphic Artists Guild should not provide either financial or vocal support to the Alliance, and should terminate its executive membership. I just recently sent the report to the national officers and board of directors at the Guild, so we’ll probably have to wait a little to see if anything develops. After the Guild leadership has had adequate time to decide on policy I’ll make the report freely available to everyone.
While my Copyright Alliance report originally started off as guild business, it touches on a number of issues that all illustrators should be mindful of, and which should be discussed at the IAG. I became familiar with a few things while investigating the Alliance: ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement); the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA); the “chilling effect” of DMCA take-down notices; Hollywood accounting; net neutrality; and a few other issues that we should take some time to learn about.
That brings me to my last news item; we will have our next IAG meeting at the Productive on Thursday, September 27, and I will give a presentation on the current political landscape of copyright and related trade issues, and so share with you a bit of knowledge gained by all my Copyright Alliance muckraking. Since I’m not a lawyer I won’t be making pronouncements about legislative details, but I will be able to provide you with a pretty good summary of who the players on the field are, what they are advocating, and point you to some resources that might help you sort things out for yourself. The main idea behind my presentation will be to alert you to a few objects in motion in the business world and in Washington D.C. that may not be making huge headlines, but are still worth paying attention to.