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Peruvians Petition their President to Stick Up for their Digital Rights

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, May 13 2013

Lima, Peru (Federico via Wikipedia)

Peru’s civil society advocacy groups have started an online petition outlining their ‘non-negotiable’ demands for digital rights and freedom of speech. The campaign was prompted by the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Lima, Peru, will soon host the 17th round of secretive TPP trade talks, which will take place from May 15 – 24.

The TPP is a multi-national trade agreement between the U.S. and participating countries in the Pacific Rim, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Singapore and, most likely, Japan. Once Japan is factored into the equation, the TPP countries account for almost 40 percent of global GDP and a third of trade worldwide. When President Obama announced, in November 2009, that the U.S. would be a part of the TPP, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk said that it would “set the standard for 21st-century trade agreements going forward.” He also said that the agreement “could” lead to jobs and economic prosperity for Americans.

Dean Baker, a macroeconomist and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, wrote on AlJazeera.com: “Rather, these deals [TPP and the US-European Union Free Trade Agreement] are about securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests. In some cases, such as increased patent and copyright protection, these deals are 180 degrees at odds with free trade.”

The negotiations have been entirely confidential, so any speculation on the current state of the agreement is based on an Intellectual Property Rights Chapter that was leaked in 2011. Baker suspects some elements of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was thrown out after online protests that included Google and Wikipedia, will reappear in TPP, and with less public scrutiny.

Katitza Rodriguez, international rights director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a Peruvian citizen, has written about TPP and Peru’s campaign. In a post she coauthored for the Electronic Frontier Foundation she called the TPP the “biggest global threat to the Internet since ACTA.”

Speaking as an activist helping the Peruvian campaign, Rodriguez told techPresident: “There has been a total lack of knowledge on the implication of TPP and the future of our Internet.” As of today, only 1140 Peruvians have signed the petition. In spite of that low number, the UK edition of Wired picked up the story.

More than anything, Rodriguez emphasized the importance of education and spreading awareness:

Today, we presented the campaign to the Peruvian Congressman and briefed them on the major issues. It was very encouraging to see how open they were to our comments. There is a need for a more informed campaign so our policy makers know what it is what we are negotiating. Many of them are just learning that there have been a leak of the copyright proposals a few years ago, and that was news for them.

The press has been reacting positively to the campaign, but there is still a great need to educate the public, and more importantly the policymakers on the TPP´s implications for free speech and innovation on the Internet.

While awareness or concern in Peru seems shockingly low considering what's at stake, it can't be that surprising when, considering the threats many allege the TPP poses to the free Internet, it has slipped unnoticed or ignored by the popular crusaders against SOPA, Google and Wikipedia.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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