By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 24 -- In a Tokyo press conference with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, US President Barack Obama beat the trip for the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, with no acknowledgement of flaws such as the globalization of censorship under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, example here.
That example, ironically, is by Reuters - a news wire one might think would oppose censorship. Obama on April 24 said that when new sanctions on Russia are announced, "AP will be the first to know."
Back on January 15 on Capitol Hill, Fast Track for the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership was promoted in the guise of a twenty-year review of NAFTA.
The US Chamber of Commerce, Carla Hills and former Congressman David Dreier were among the pro Fast Track for TPP witnesses before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
As Chairman Salman's introduction put it, "NAFTA has been the impetus for the regional bilateral trade agreements reached since then, and has provided important lessons as the U.S. seeks to build closer ties to trade and investment partners through the much anticipated Trans Pacific Partnership."
After some perfunctory praise of NAFTA, and some unanswered questions about free trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea, things quickly turned to promotion of the TPP. The bill was introduced in Congress on January 9; it has been protested including in Harlem on January 4, here.
The Senate Finance Committee press release is here, the bill is here, their summary here. It would globalize schemes like the pro-corporate Digital Millennium Copyright Act, misused by Reuters UN bureau chief to get a leaked document banned from Google's search.
Google's "Global Head of Free Expression" Ross LaJeunesse met at the UN on January 7 with Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson. See UN notice, saved here.
It was ironic: most recently regarding the UN, Google allowed a censorship-related leaked document to be blocked from its Search, based on a bad faith complaint by Reuters bureau chief under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
So what was LaJeunesse at the UN to discuss: more censorship?
(Inner City Press asked for a read-out but so far none has been given.)
Among the many corporate lobbyists around the TPP has been Google; click here for some of its lobbying records.
There are further ironies. Prior to lobbying for Google, LaJeunesse worked for California's then-Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger, who 13 months ago was given an award by the United Nations Correspondents Association. This is the group which tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN for its reporting on Sri Lanka -- a topic on which Eliasson now leads up the UN's post-failure "Rights Upfront" initiative.
While free press protections are in some ways advanced in the United States, as the Free UN Coalition for Access has begun highlighting, the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act can be and has been used as an end-run attack on freedom of the press.
(Another irony: from UN transcripts of Eliasson's press conference, the "Free UN Coalition for Access" introductionwas omitted, while the UN's Censorship Alliance was left in, click here for that.)
Bigger picture, as exemplified by an August 14, 2013 bad faith complaint to Google by Reuters' UN bureau chief Louis Charbonneau, DMCA's provisions for "take-down" or blocking of information with no prior judicial review allow for abuse.
Leaked documents used in an investigative story can be blocked, as the Reuters' complaint to Google blocked from Google's search its bureau chief's e-mail to the UN seeking to get Inner City Press thrown out. This is a perversion of the concept of copyright (as well as a contradictory argument for Reuters or anyone in journalism to be making, that such documents should be taken down or blocked.)
In Chile, for example, any such take-down requires the requester to get a court order. But DMCA provides, and Google allowed, blocking based on a non-reviewed, bad faith complaint.
As the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry told Inner City Press about the case:
"Unfortunately, it is all too easy for a copyright holder (assuming that the person that sent this notice actually held copyright in the email) to abuse the DMCA to take down content and stifle legitimate speech. As countries outside the US consider adopting DMCA-like procedures, they must make sure they include strong protections for free speech, such as significant penalties for takedown abuse."
Along with other pro-corporate provisions, TPP would internationalize this abuse of copyright to undermine freedom of the press.
If this remains precedent, what else could come down?
Why not an email from Iran, for example, to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency? Why not a sanctions filing by a country? Here is Reuters logic, accepted if only automatically by Google:
The copyrighted material is a private email I wrote in April 2012 and for which I never gave permission to be published. It has been published on a blog and appears in on the first page of search results for my name and the firm I work for, Reuters. It can be seen here: http://www.innercitypress.com/reutersLC3unmalu.pdf
But this is true of ANY leaked document: it can be said that the entity or person exposed "never gave permission [for it] to be published." Does that mean Google can or should block search access to it?
Can a complaint to a Media Accreditation official against a competitor legitimately be considered "private"? In any event, the DMCA is not about protecting privacy.
Iran or North Korea could say a filing or status report they make with the IAEA is "private" and was not intended to be published. Would Google, receiving a DMCA filing, block access to the information on, say, Reuters.com?
Charbonneau's bad-faith argument says his complaint to the UN was "published on a blog." Is THAT what Reuters claims makes it different that publication in some other media?
The logic of Reuters' and Charbonneau's August 14, 2013 filing with Google, put online via the ChillingEffects.org project, is profoundly anti free press.
The fact that Google accepts or didn't check, to remain in the DMCA Safe Harbor, the filing makes it even worse. The request to take-down wasn't made to InnerCityPress.com or its server -- it would have been rejected. But banning a page from Search has the same censoring effect.
The US has a regime to protect freedom of the press, and against prior restraint. But this is a loophole, exploited cynically by Reuters. What if a media conducted a long investigation of a mayor, fueled by a leaked email. When the story was published, could the Mayor make a Reuters-like filing with Google and get it blocked?
Here is the text of Charbonneau's communication to the UN's top Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit official Stephane Dujarric and MALU's manager, to which he claimed "copyright" and for now has banned from Google's Search:
Hi Isabelle and Stephane,
I just wanted to pass on for the record that I was just confronted by Matt Lee in the DHL auditorium in very hostile fashion a short while ago (there were several witnesses, including Giampaolo). He's obviously gotten wind that there's a movement afoot to expel him from the UNCA executive committee, though he doesn't know the details yet. But he was going out of his way to be as intimidating and aggressive as possible towards me, told me I "disgust" him, etc.
In all my 20+ years of reporting I've never been approached like that by a follow journalist in any press corps, no matter how stressful things got. He's become someone who's making it very hard for me and others in the UN press to do our jobs. His harassment of fellow reporters is reaching a new fever pitch.
I just thought you should know this.
Bureau Chief. United Nations
Reuters News Thomson Reuters reuters. com
Bureau Chief. United Nations
Reuters News Thomson Reuters reuters. com
This email was sent to you by Thomson Reuters, the global news and information company.
The fool of Reuters to the UN
by Mahesh - 12/27/2013 -calls for the removal of a letter from the head of his bureau at the United Nations, pursuing a copyright infringement on the part of the competition
Try to make out a small competitor from the UN press room and then, when these publish proof of intrigue, invokes the copyright to release a letter from compromising the network.
MOLESTA-AGENCY Inner City Press is a small non-profit agency covering the work of the United Nations for years, with an original cut, which become distasteful to many. Unlike other matching its founder master sent never tires of asking account of inconsistencies and contradictions and often refers to unpleasant situations involving colleagues and their reportage, too often twisted to obvious political contingencies.
THE LAST CAVITY – In this case the clutch is born when Matthew Lee, Inner City Press ever since he founded and made famous in the 90 's, challenged the screening of "Lies Agreed Upon" in the auditorium of the United Nations, a filmaccio of propaganda in which the Sri Lankan regime tries to deny the now tested massacres (and destroyed by International Crisis Group). In the piece, in which denounced the incident, Lee also announced that the screening was organized by the President of the United Nations Correspondents (UNCA), Italian Giampaolo Pioli, skipping the normal consultation procedure for this kind of events. Pioli then, was also accused of being in a conflict of interest, given that he rented an apartment in New York an apartment to the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Sri Lanka, named Palitha Kohona and is suspected of war crimes.
TRY WITH THE COPYRIGHT- So he comes to the letter with which Louis Charbonneau, Reuters bureau chief at the United Nations, wrote to the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU) calling for the ouster of Lee, which the UN being there for years as his colleagues, but we see that this was not done. Lee, however, comes into possession of the letter and publish it, and then writes to Google millantando Charbonneau the copyright on the letter and asking for removal pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That is a bit like if a company request the removal of a compromising document from a journalistic investigation, in the name of copyright, a claim clearly absurd and disingenuous.
HARASSMENT AND THREATS- In the letter published, Charbonneau complained about the aggressive behavior of Lee and cited among the witnesses to cases where Lee had been "aggressive" towards him even Pioli.Lee with that piece has gained throughout a hail of protests from Sri Lanka and an investigation by the UNCA, along with death threats and other well-known amenities the refugees away from the clutches of the regime, but it is still there. Behold then the brilliant idea of Charbonneau, improperly used copyright law to censor the objectionable publications to a colleague and competitor. Pity that Lee has already resisted successfully in similar cases, in 2008 was the same Google to remove your site from being indexed in the news in its search engines, it is unclear what impetus behind, only to regret it soon after that even Fox News had cried scandal.