[R] R project and the TPP

Spencer Graves spencer.graves at effectivedefense.org
Fri Feb 5 01:48:18 CET 2016

       It's not clear if the TPP would ever directly impact the R 
project.  However, it could impact many R users.

             * For example, if someone decides that something you have 
on the web includes material for which they claim copyright, the TPP 
allows them to order your Internet Service Provider to take down your 
web site.   No court order is required.  No proof is required.  If you 
want to contest, the dispute might go through the "Investor-State 
Dispute Settlement" process, where the issue will be judged by people 
essentially selected by multinational businesses. (Article 18, Section 
J.)  [Phillip Morris Tobacco Company has already sued Uruguay, Australia 
and Norway over packaging requirements that has actually been effective 
in reducing tobacco consumption in those countries.  Former New York 
City Mayor Bloomberg has been paying legal fees for Uruguay, because 
they can't afford the legal fees.  Tobacco is explicitly excluded from 
the TPP, but similar suits could be brought over other types of products 
or services.]  This could include some algorithm you've coded into R, if 
some company decides you're using their copyrighted algorithm or 
whatever without paying for it.  Current US copyright law covers 
"derivative works", which could be almost anything.  This sounds far 
fetched.  However, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) 
sued four college students for close to $100 billion, because their 
improvements of search engines made it easier for people in a university 
intranet to find copyrighted music placed by others in their "public" 
folder.  The attorney uncle of one of those four told his nephew that it 
would cost him a million dollars to defend himself, and there would be 
no way he could recoup that money even if he won.  In negotiations, they 
asked the student how much money he had.  He said he had saved $12,000 
for college.  They took it. Major media organizations similarly sued 
Venture Capitalists who funded Napster and Lawyers who advised MP3.com 
that they had reasonable grounds to that MP3's business model was legal. 
  The Napster funders and MP3 lawyers similarly knew they could not 
afford to defend themselves and settled.  [Wikipedia, "Free Culture 
(book)";  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Culture_(book)]

       Other parts of the TPP are highly undemocratic but may not relate 
as closely to R as the provision I just mentioned.

             * The provision that worries me the most is Article 18.78 
on “Trade Secrets”.  This broadly criminalizes “unauthorized and willful 
disclosure of a trade secret”.  This doesn't sound bad, except that a 
"trade secret" could include documentation of criminal behavior.  This 
substantially increases risks for journalists and whistleblowers.  For 
example The Guardian could be sued for having published documents 
released by Ed Snowden -- even though what Snowden did was expose 
perjury by James Clapper, US Director of National Intelligence. 

             * Article 18.63 "forces the most draconian parts of the 
U.S.’s broken copyright system on the rest of the world without 
expanding protections for fair use and free speech. This section 
requires countries to enforce copyright until 70 years after the 
creator’s death. This will keep an enormous amount of information, art, 
and creativity out of the public domain for decades longer than 
necessary, and allow for governments to abuse copyright laws to censor 
online content at will, since so much of it will be copyrighted for so 

             * The TPP could also make the Internet less secure.  For 
example, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says that, "With no good 
rationale, the agreement would outlaw a country from adopting rules for 
the sale of software that include mandatory code review or the release 
of source code. This could inhibit countries from addressing pressing 
information security problems, such as widespread and massive 
vulnerability in closed-source home routers." (www.eff.org/issues/tpp)

       I hope you find this interesting and useful even if some of it is 
off topic.

       Spencer Graves

On 2/4/2016 5:15 PM, Rolf Turner wrote:
> Quite a while ago I went to talk (I think it may have been at an NZSA
> conference) given by the great Ross Ihaka.  I forget the details but
> my vague recollection was that it involved a technique for automatic
> choice of some sort of smoothing parameter involved in a graphical
> display. Apparently Ross's ideas related peripherally to some patented
> technique owned by Texas Instruments, and TI was causing problems for
> Ross.  He seemed to be of the opinion that the TPP would make matters
> worse.
> I suspect he's right.  It will make matters worse for everyone except
> the rich bastards in the multinationals, in all respects.
> cheers,
> Rolf

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