Open Letter on Intermediary Liability and the TPP

Dear [trade ministers, legislators, negotiators]

The technology sector has become one of the leading drivers of the global economy. The Internet’s international network of knowledge-sharing platforms has enabled new innovative, digital services to emerge from all corners of the world, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs for educated, skilled workers. As our lawmakers and policymakers maintain rules for the use of technology, it remains crucial that these rules respect the very values that gave rise to these new businesses.

As Internet service providers, tech companies, and organizations representing thousands of engineers and users around the world, we write to you today to call your attention to a threat to this thriving technological ecosystem: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. This highly secretive, supra-national agreement is reported to include provisions impacting copyright and privacy in ways that significantly constrain legitimate online activity and innovation.

The provisions regarding intermediary liability are particularly concerning. We are worried about language that would force service providers throughout the region to monitor and police their users' actions on the internet, pass on automated takedown notices, block websites and disconnect Internet users. Irresponsible rightsholders can burden intermediaries with many thousands of automated takedown requests every day, using systems that operate with little or no human oversight. These systems rely on a “takedown first and ask questions later” approach to pages and content alleged to breach copyright.

Burdening these service providers with these new liabilities could also add new costs that may be passed onto Internet users. These automated systems have also led to many forms of legitimate speech being taken down, even when they are protected under fair use. (See this two-page fact-sheet for more info: We oppose any kind of proposal for an enforcement regime that could lead to a “notice and staydown” system, where there is little to no recourse for users to challenge takedowns and restore removed content.

In light of these issues with existing intermediary liability systems, there are two specific models that could better protect the joint interests of tech services and users:

1) A notice-and-notice system that does not burden intermediaries with the obligation to remove and block access to content.
2) A judicial notice and takedown system that ensures the formal application of due process in determining the lawfulness of allegedly infringing content.

We hope the final language provides proper flexibility for nations to establish these kinds of takedown systems, as they continue to re-evaluate and reform their legal frameworks in response to new technological realities. We sincerely hope you re-examine the proposals that are on the table, and seriously question whether you are pushing for proposals that would truly enable new businesses to flourish in our countries in the decades to come.


(Initial Signers)

*Entrepreneurs, Investors, Businesses and Industry groups:

Alexis Ohanian, Co-founder of Reddit
Affinity Bridge
Agentic Digital Media
Australian Digital Alliance
Corey Doctorow, Happy Mutants, LLC (
cStreet Campaigns
CREDO Mobile
Data Foundry
Engine Advocacy
Fark, Inc
Floor64 Inc. (aka Techdirt)
Gen Why Media
Golden Frog
GrowthLogic Inc.
Internet Archive
Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition)
Imgur, Inc.
O'Reilly Media
Ron Yokubaitis, Founder of Data Foundry Inc.
Tim Bray, Textuality Services, Inc.
Scoop Media
Stack Exchange
Wikimedia Foundation

*User groups:

Association of Progressive Communications
Australian Privacy Foundation
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
Consumer New Zealand
Consumers International
Demand Progress
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
Electronic Frontiers Australia, Inc.
Fight for the Future
Public Knowledge

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