More than 25 leading tech companies and start-ups have joined a public letter urging Senator Ron Wyden, the newly appointed Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to firmly oppose any form of “fast track” authority for trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and to demand transparency and an opportunity for public participation in negotiations that affect Internet freedom, free speech, and the tech economy.
The signatories include well known tech companies like reddit, Automattic (WordPress.com), Imgur, DuckDuckGo, CREDO Mobile, BoingBoing, Thoughtworks, Namecheap, Fark, iFixit, and Cheezburger. Collectively, these companies represent the interests of millions of users in the United States and around the world. In the letter, the companies outline how the technology industry, from entrepreneurs and engineers all the way to consumers, could be harmed by “fast tracked” trade agreements that contain unbalanced copyright and innovation policy frameworks.
“These highly secretive, supranational agreements are reported to include provisions that vastly expand on any reasonable definition of ‘trade,’ including provisions that impact patents, copyright, and privacy in ways that constrain legitimate online activity and innovation,” the companies write. The letter continues: “Our industry, and the users that we serve, need to be at the table from the beginning,” which has not been the case with TPP negotiations.
Meanwhile, in Portland, OR…
The delivery of the letter coincided with an event outside Senator Wyden’s office in Portland, OR, where Fight for the Future and a coalition of advocacy groups delivered more than 13,686 signatures to the Senator also asking him to oppose any form of Fast Track authority. During the action they urged him to oppose the renewal of 1970s-era trade legislation, which they say threatens Oregon high-tech jobs, digital privacy and freedom on the Internet. The signatures will be adhered to hundreds of floppy disks with the message “Fast Track is obsolete technology.”
Click here to see photos and a press release about the “Floppy Disk” petition delivery.
The letter was coordinated with the assistance of the public interest organizations Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future. Contact information for those organizations is provided above.
Full text of the letter and list of signers:
Dear Senator Ron Wyden,
Congratulations on your recent appointment as Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. As technology companies with business models inextricably linked to the Internet, we admire your work as a staunch defender of users and online rights—most prominently when you led the fight against SOPA and PIPA in Congress.
Today we write about another emerging front in the battle to defend the free Internet—massive trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These highly secretive, supranational agreements are reported to include provisions that vastly expand on any reasonable definition of “trade,” including provisions that impact patents, copyright, and privacy in ways that constrain legitimate online activity and innovation. We applaud your prior efforts as Senator to bring transparency and public participation to trade negotiations. We strongly urge you to uphold and expand this dedication into your new role.
None of the usual justifications for trade negotiation exclusivity apply to recent agreements like the TPP. Even assuming that it is legitimate to shield the discussions of certain trade barriers—like import tariffs—from political interference, the provisions in these new trade agreements go far beyond such traditional trade issues.
Based on what we’ve seen in leaked copies of the proposed text, we are particularly concerned about the U.S. Trade Representative’s proposals around copyright enforcement. Dozens of digital rights organizations and tens of thousands of individuals have raised alarm over provisions that would bind treaty signatories to inflexible digital regulations that undermine free speech. Based on the fate of recent similar measures, it is virtually certain that such proposals would face serious scrutiny if proposed at the domestic level or via a more transparent process. Anticipated elements such as harsher criminal penalties for minor, non-commercial copyright infringements, a ‘take-down and ask questions later’ approach to pages and content alleged to breach copyright, and the possibility of Internet providers having to disclose personal information to authorities without safeguards for privacy will chill innovation and significantly restrict users’ freedoms online.
Some aspects of U.S. copyright law, such as the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions, have helped foster the vibrant tech industry in this country. But in other areas, we are due for major reforms—a fact made clear by Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante’s call for the “Next Great Copyright Act” and the House Judiciary Committee’s efforts to implement that reform. In light of these needed revisions, the U.S. system cannot be crystallized as the international norm and should not be imposed on other nations. It is crucial that we maintain the flexibility to re-evaluate and reform our legal framework in response to new technological realities. Ceding national sovereignty over critical issues like copyright is not in the best interest of any of the potential signatories of this treaty.
We can only build a successful innovation policy framework—one that supports new ideas, products, and markets—if the process to design it is open and participatory. Unfortunately, the trade negotiation process has been anything but transparent. Our industry, and the users that we serve, need to be at the table from the beginning to design policies that serve more than the narrow commercial interests of the few large corporations who have been invited to participate.
We urge you not to pass any version of Fast Track or trade promotion authority, or approve any mechanism that would facilitate the passage of trade agreements containing digital copyright enforcement provisions designed in an opaque, closed-door process.
As the new Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, you are in a position to shape U.S. policy to keep this country a place where innovation thrives. We look forward to your continued dedication to the interests of technology and its users.
Thank you for your attention.
Automattic Inc. (WordPress.com)
Private Internet Access
Dear Fight for the Future member,
On Monday, Edward Snowden spoke to a crowd of thousands at SXSW, and it seriously felt like he was reading our minds.
“The NSA is setting fire to the future of the internet,” Snowden said, “and you guys are the firefighters.” He went on to issue a call to arms for the tech community, saying that “encryption works” as proven by the fact that the U.S. government still has no idea what documents he has provided to journalists (1).
We’ve been waiting for the right moment to tell you, and we can’t wait any longer. We have a plan to stamp out the NSA’s fire once and for all: on June 5th, 2014 — the anniversary of the first Snowden NSA story — we will Reset the Net, and take our privacy back.
Just yesterday we learned in a shocking NY Times story that the FISA court had secretly approved widespread sharing of raw private data across the government (2). It’s a long article, and you should read it, but here’s the TL;DR: thanks to so-called “Fusion Centers” and secret laws, the local cops in your town have at their fingertips everything about you that the NSA has collected over the past 5 years. Without a warrant.
It gets worse. This morning we learned that the NSA is using automation to hack and gain control of ‘millions’ of computers (3).
Governments have abused the Internet and twisted into something it was never intended to be. They’ve stolen our most private moments, and with them our most basic freedoms to communicate and be ourselves.
Everyone has been waiting for some resounding action that meets the problem of government spying head on. This is our moment to rally and realize our power. We don’t need anyone’s permission, but we need everyone’s participation. If you’re a developer, designer, or cryptographer and want to help, please reply to this email and get in touch.
-Evan and Tiffiniy
Fight for the Future
1) PC Magazine, “6 things Edward Snowden revealed at SXSW”
2) New York Times, How a Court Secretly Evolved, Extending U.S. Spies’ Reach
3) The Intercept, How the NSA plans to Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware
We’ve warned about this scenario before and now there’s proof. The CIA was just caught red-handed spying on staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee who were investigating the CIA’s secret and highly controversial torture program.
This confirms some of our worst fears. It’s the ultimate abuse of power that calls our entire democracy into question. How screwed are we when the government has the power to intimidate or derail investigations into their own crimes?
Here’s some links on that developing story:
There are a ton of things happening right now to be aware of. Check out these top stories:
A bunch of the FFTF team will be headed to SXSW this weekend. Will you be there? Catch us at one of these events!
-Evan at FFTF
This was unexpected, but awesome. On Friday, Stephen Colbert went ahead and spoke at the RSA conference, despite our petition (that many of you signed) asking him not to. But in the end, it was kind of amazing, and basically went just the way we’d planned.
UPDATE: Here’s full video of Colbert’s speech, in two sections:
He directly addresses our petition at 7:04 and then goes on to thoroughly roast the NSA and poke fun at the conference attendees in typical Colbert style.
From the moment we launched this petition, our primary goal was to make sure that Colbert knew about RSA’s dirty deal with the NSA, and frame the debate around the entire conference in the media to keep the pressure on RSA and other companies who have sold out their users’ privacy. We succeeded in a big way — possibly even bigger than if Colbert had canceled.
This CNN piece made the rounds right after the conference. Definitely not the kind of headlines that RSA was hoping for while they try desparately to distance themselves from their sordid past with the NSA: http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/01/tech/colbert-rsa-keynote/
In our opinion, the media didn’t quite get Colbert’s humor, though. CNN and CNET both reported that Colbert defended RSA and “called Edward Snowden a war criminal.” We suggest you watch the whole speech and decide for yourself.
We won’t give too much away, but here’s one of Colbert’s choicer lines: “We can trust the NSA, because without a doubt it is history’s most powerful, pervasive, and sophisticated surveillance agency ever to be totally PWNED by a 29 year old with a thumb drive.”
Thanks for being part of making this happen. It was totally worth it.
Your friends at Fight for the Future
Holmes, Tiffiniy, and Evan
P.S. If you think it’s pretty awesome that we impacted Colbert’s speech in such a big way and turned up the heat on RSA, please make a donation to support our work.
CNET, “Colbert turns his funny gun on Snowden in RSA keynote”
Last month, we essentially defeated the first attempt by Congress to “Fast Track” the Internet-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. The Camp-Baucus Fast Track bill isn’t going anywhere, thanks to massive grassroots resistance led by FFTF members like you.
But we’re not safe yet. Senator Ron Wyden is the new Finance Committee Chair and he’s deciding right now whether to introduce a new “better” version of Fast Track that could still sneak TPP internet censorship through congress without meaningful debate or amendments.
To make sure that Wyden gets the message that Fast Track is outdated and inappropriate for making decisions that affect the future of the Internet, we’ll be pasting your signatures onto old-school floppy disks, and delivering them to Wyden’s offices in Oregon along with Citizens Trade Campaign and other groups.
Senator Wyden has been a champion for Internet freedom in the past. He stood with us against SOPA and asked the NSA the toughest questions. We’re winning the fight against Fast Track and we’re on the offensive now. If we can remind Wyden of his pro-Internet values and get him on the record against Fast Track, we’ll be close to a total victory against the TPP’s backdoor internet censorship deal.
We’re ramping up our efforts against Fast Track in the coming months. Stay tuned for more.
For the Internet,
-Evan, Tiffiniy, and Holmes
Fight for the Future
The majority of our domestic requests consisted of subpoenas, followed by search warrants. As shown above, Tumblr produced blog content in response to 31% of domestic requests, account data in response to 84% of domestic requests, and nothing at all in response to 16% of domestic requests. In cases where no content or data was produced, the requests may have been withdrawn, or were defective, or we may have objected to the requests on legal grounds.
Today we launch 10 days of intensified action to stop “Fast Track” and derail the TPP. We need every single one of you to join us. The future of the Internet and the planet depends on it.
4 out of 5 people worldwide don’t have access to an uncensored, open Internet. So we made this page to make getting a VPN easy! For just a few dollars each month, you can protect yourself from spies, identity thieves, and copyright trolls.
3 judges just sided with Verizon and struck down net neutrality. Starting right now, your Internet service provider can censor, throttle, and block content however they want, while corporate websites that can pay more will be blazing fast. The FCC can stop this, but they need to hear from you.
Click the picture or follow this link to tell The FCC that we need net neutrality to protect internet users from monopolistic ISPs.