Worrying about the Trans-Pacific Partnership


Call me late, but when it comes to heavy shit like multilateral trade and IPR regimes, I’d prefer being late to having my facts wrong and looking like a total douche.

So, a while back, our President (who is always wrong) went to the United States of Fucking America for a state visit. He came back with some startling news: Indonesia was going to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). They say it would be a good opportunity for economic growth, yadda yadda insert usual political rhetoric here.

Now, last time I checked, the TPP was a secretive project concocted by the US government to increase their export advantages and impose a global liberal trade regime. There has been no public discussion of the TPP bill and its details have remained secret. The only thing the public has are leaks from WikiLeaks and that’s pretty much it.

But since it’s made by America and has the word “liberal” in it, it should be bad right? Normally, I’d whisk away those conspiracy nutjobs, but this time, I would have to agree that the TPP would do more harm to Indonesia than good.

What the Fuck is the TPP?

The TPP acts as an international trade regime. In a trade regime, any country who ratified the pact immediately agrees to all the rules stated in the pact and from thereon, must adjust their own national laws to meet the standards of said pact. Say that, for example, Japan has their own copyright rules and America has their own. Now, since America made the TPP, if Japan wanted to become a member of the club, Japan would have to follow the rules of the TPP and thereby adjust their own national copyright laws to meet the standards of the TPP. That’s how international law works fundamentally. Don’t like it? Then GTFO; you don’t have to join the club. Now, let me get to the rules of the TPP. Though details are still rather vague, there are many credible analyses online regarding the possible content of the TPP. I like the analyses by TPPinfo.org. Head over there and educate yourselves if you haven’t.

Though there’s a lot to talk about, let’s talk about intellectual property rights (IPR). IPR laws  differ from country to country, mostly due to differences in local customs. In Indonesia, IPR laws exist, but enforcement is rather lenient because nobody fucking cares if you pirated a movie. In Japan, you could face charges for illegal downloads. Now, the TPP, aside from being a trade pact, is also an IPR regime, or a set of IPR rules that transcends borders. Anybody who wants to join the TPP must embrace its rules and adapt them into national law. IPR laws in the TPP are supposedly much more rigid than US laws, but since we don’t have enough details, we can’t say for sure.

What’s Wrong with the TPP?

So, we want to protect copyright. That’s not a bad thing, right? That depends: which side are you on?

There’s a fuck ton of things that are wrong with the TPP, but perhaps the most important one is about copyright. The TPP has the potential to basically kill all kinds of creativity in the name of copyright.

RocketNews24 has already discussed the possible debilitating effects of the TPP on the doujinshi market. Let me elaborate. Doujinshis are a type of derivative work, which is a work that “borrows” stuff like, but not limited to, characters from a certain anime/manga/other licensed intellectual property. And by Japanese copyright laws, doujinshis are by nature illegal because they are sold for profit. However, stakeholders have turned a blind eye because the doujinshi market, while clearly infringing copyright, has proven to be a much more lucrative opportunity. From Comiket, the manga industry can scout new talent and also increase their fandom. It would be a great hassle to sue a poor NEET just because they made a doujin of Umaru being raped by a bunch of anthropomorphized game consoles. The costs (lawyers, court, etc.) would exceed their gains, making it really stupid. By the way, it’s only considered a criminal offence if someone presses charges.

Now, enter the TPP. The terms of the TPP make it so that even minor offences are punishable by law. It removes the “crime after someone presses charges” system, meaning that the mere act of drawing Miria Akagi being raped by ten old men is considered a criminal offence. (Well, it should be. How could you! Treating an innocent loli like that… You fucking monster!)

Related to that, there is no indication of a “fair use” clause in the TPP. You guys know fair use right? When you use licensed music in a personal YouTube video, or when you download images off Google to use in a class presentation? Nope, according to the TPP, that’s now illegal and you can go to jail for that. And to top it off, even breaking digital rights management (DRM) on software for personal archiving or other uses can be illegal under the TPP.

Those are only the tip of the iceberg. Since I’m not a law major, I can’t discuss in detail about the clauses in the leaked TPP documents. But those aspects I find the most distressing about the TPP. Don’t take my word for it, I’m just another blogger on the internet.

What’s the Deal with Indonesia?

If Japan’s artists are rallying against the TPP, something must be wrong with it. But why did Joko Widodo agree to join the TPP when his entire political campaign was about developing creative industries? I’m genuinely concerned by this because I wrote a paper (which got published) a year ago about Indonesia’s creative industries and how they could become an agent of Indonesian soft power. I was highly optimistic back then, but now, I’m losing hope.

I think it’s important to let you guys know that Indonesia has a terrible IPR law record. Since the 1980s, Indonesia has repeatedly made it on the IIPA list, which is a list of countries deemed to be the best pirates in the world. Indonesia’s one of the best pirate countries in the world, by the way, according to the list. The annual IIPA report (most recent 2014) has yet to relieve Indonesia of this shameful status. Some of the problems mentioned were “largely non-transparent” legal procedures and the lack of a comprehensive IPR protection framework.

And don’t let get started on the severe lack of IPR law enforcement. The cops are raiding small-time DVD pirates while turning a blind eye to copyright infringement in the publishing industry. Makes you wonder why Indonesian writers choose to publish abroad.

Perhaps, by joining the TPP, Indonesia can finally step up its game in IPR protection. But is that really the case?

You see, creativity and IPR have this love-hate relationship. See, nothing is original under this blue sky. Someone else may have already thought about an idea we had yesterday. Different cultures share similar folklore; I’ve noticed some similarities between the fables of Aesop and Balinese bedtime stories. Even across Indonesia, cultures share similar types of music and dances. But on the other hand, in an increasingly capitalistic society where ideas are commodities, a degree of IPR is required to keep creative people in work. Wouldn’t you be pissed off if someone ripped off your artwork and claimed it were theirs? But too much IPR protection has the potential to kill creativity in the name of shekels. We have to realize that being creative sometimes means “stealing” (in a good sense) other people’s work and then adding our own touch to it.

“It is difficult for me to build characters from scratch since I am not a professional,” Usami said Dec. 30 while attending the 87th Comic Market, a famed event featuring fan fiction held at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center in the capital’s Koto Ward. “People who buy my manga like it if I can manipulate well-known, attractive characters in a way that pleases me.” – Asahi Shimbun, 29 March 2014

Let’s take  a look at Indonesia’s creative industries. Face it, a lot of our so-called “creative” home-grown industries are just a bunch of pirates. That cool anime shirt on sale at a convention? The pic’s from Google or Pixiv, and a dude stole it and printed it on a fucking shirt. Those keychains may also be stolen images, printed on acrylic then sold to you gullible fucks at 20K per piece. Those kind of people exist, but I don’t regard them as part of the creative force. Fuck those pigs.

What I do appreciate as part of the creative forces are artists, cosplayers, writers, and filmmakers making original content, but are way underappreciated by the ignorant Indonesian masses. With a bit more IPR protection, those people could thrive in a conducive environment for creativity. But what about doujin circles and cosplayers? Considering the blanket-ban nature of the TPP, I’m quite concerned of the fate of these people. The otaku community in Japan are rallying against the TPP because it would make doujins and cosplays as a punishable IPR offence, even if the copyright owner does not feel the need to press charges. If it were applied here, then we’d have “people vs corporate” drama every fucking day. Artists wouldn’t be allowed to make doujins of original Indonesian characters; there won’t be parodies or doujins of TAWUR or Reon and Reyna 18+ fiction (which I would totally buy). The sole right to cosplay as lies in the company’s hands; nobody else will have the right to playfully cosplay as Yumna from Battle of Surabaya without the “IPR Police” swooning in with their black helicopters. Creativity will die at the TPP’s hands.

So, we need a degree of IPR protection, but if there’s too much, it works against the interests of the people. And without creativity, the entire “muh creative industries” rhetoric brought up by the President would be for naught.

P.S. Someone fucking draw a doujin where ALL characters of Re:ON Comics or Nusaimoe face the TPP in an epic boss battle.


One thought on “Worrying about the Trans-Pacific Partnership

  1. Your right, The Trans Pacific Pact is not exactly as great for the global economy as we might have been led to believe. Here in the United States many of our politicians be it Democratic or Republican are against it. I mean in theory it would be great since from what I understand it would lead to better open global trading with many countries but what seems to be the main reason many politicians here dislike it is over it possibly helping foreign countries (that are not the United States) take advantage of moving jobs away from American shores. You can see why this could be terrible for what I see as my home country the United States of America. Who knows if some other countries (who might not hold the best intentions toward the United States) might get it into themselves to take advantage of The Trans Pacific Pact and outsource a lot of the jobs to other nations. This could potentially be a disaster and who knows what all this could lead to in the overall global economy. In a way, I love President Obama’s idealism but I worry about this particular issue. The rest of what he has done has not been of particular worry but this does have me worried. And now that you bring this up about this impacting things on the creative front in Indonesia, you are right, cosplayers and doujinshis should not be harmed due to this. As long as they are producing new things in some fashion away from the original, it is at least making things somewhat new. Since it is true, almost everything in the world could have already been possibly discovered both in story and art.


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