Little Known Element Of TPP Allows Governments To Take, Destroy Citizens’ Devices

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Steve Ambrose Contributor
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A leaked portion of text from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could have serious consequences not only on the average citizen, but also tech specialists who help ensure product safety.

According to an Oct. 9 release by WikiLeaks, the intellectual property chapter of the TPP includes language that seems to indicate judges may be allowed to order the confiscation and destruction of devices belonging to citizens.

The text reads: “[E]ach Party shall provide that its judicial authorities shall, at least, have the authority to: impose provisional measures, including seizure or other taking into custody of devices … [and] order the destruction of devices and products found to be involved in the prohibited activity.”

For the U.S., the “prohibited activity” portion in the treaty, will include violations of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, DRM technologies are designed in a way to limit what a person can and can’t do with a product after it has been purchased.
The EFF lists some common examples of DRM restrictions including: limiting an ebook to be read only on specific ebook readers; limiting smartphone apps to only function on specific phones or service providers; and blocking a computer from copying a purchased DVD.
Jeremy Malcolm, a senior global policy analyst for the EFF, told Motherboard, “those who are tinkering with their own legally-purchased digital products will be at risk not only of financial penalties, but also having their equipment seized and perhaps destroyed.”
Vivek Krishnamurthy, a Harvard cyberlaw instructor, also told Motherboard that in addition to the effect the treaty will have on the usage of purchased technology by the average citizen, it could could also impact the work of security researchers.
Security researchers, also known as white hats, are “ethical hackers” that use their skills to look for weaknesses or flaws in a product in an effort to warn consumers and manufactures of potential problems.
White hats test a variety of products including the electronic systems in cars, new computers or smartphone software. The text of the TPP allows countries to set up an exception for the “ethical hackers,” but that is not mandatory.
Signatories to the treaty are bound to conform their domestic intellectual property laws to the TPP. In the United States, the primary law regarding intellectual property is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA). Part of the DCMA criminalizes attempts circumvent Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies.
The signatories to the TPP are: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Though the TPP has been finalized and signed, it still must be ratified by each respective government.

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