For the last ten years, politicians and business leaders have been hammering out the largest trade deal in US history. Very few people have actually seen what's in it, and WikiLeaks wants to change that.
The document-leaking website, run by Julian AssangeTM, is offering a $100,000 (£65k) reward for the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Three of the 29 chapters of the trade deal have already been leaked, and WikiLeaks will pay big bucks for the other 26 so it can display them to the world.
"The transparency clock has run out on the TPP. No more secrecy. No more excuses. Let’s open the TPP once and for all," said AssangeTM.
Of course, WikiLeaks doesn't actually have $100,000 just lying around. After it was blockaded by the payment industry following the leak of US State Department cables supplied by Chelsea Manning, the organization has been chronically short of cash. So, it is crowdfunding the reward, and has brought in nearly $38,000 in the first day of fundraising.
That's a lot of fuss over a treaty
That's a sizable chunk of change to be raised so quickly by a group whose leader is effectively hiding in an Ecuadorian broom cupboard in London. Clearly a lot of people are riled up about the TPP, but what is all the fuss about?
The TPP is billed as a free trade agreement between 12 countries with borders on the Pacific, the world's largest ocean: these nations are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Other than that we know very little – there has been no official release of the text from the deal.
What we do know from leaks is that the treaty isn't just about trade. According to WikiLeaks, only five of the 29 chapters cover trade, while the rest are a series of things business has been demanding for years.
For example, it seeks – or at some point in an earlier draft sought – to extend American copyright laws to participating nations, possibly even going so far as to make ISPs responsible for any copyright infringement by their users, and impose criminal charges on downloaders.
Anti-piracy mechanisms – so-called digital rights management – is also a key part of the treaty, according to the EFF. The TPP seeks to criminalize any circumvention of DRM in products, although apparently there are exceptions to this.
It also seems that the treaty will contain most of the provisions of the much-hated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was stopped by mass protests and European politicians balking in response.
What's most troubling for many people is that the TPP would trump domestic laws. Under the terms leaked so far, transnational corporations would have the right to sue governments for loss of earnings if they pass laws that hurt their profits. Cigarette companies are already using similar laws to sue countries that restrict tobacco sales.