October 9, 2015 Last Updated 11:49 am

TPP provisions may have Silicon Valley at odds with privacy and copyright reform advocates

Morning Brief: French court fines two celebrity magazines for publishing pictures of the President and companion, while union organizing trend continues at digital media properties

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement recently concluded has drawn some opposition from some of the candidates running for President, the latest being Hillary Clinton, but with events in the Congress taking up the media’s attention right now, it may be a while before TPP becomes a major issue with the public.

TPP-leaders-420Details of the agreement remain secret, itself controversial, but the issues of consumer data and copyright law will be at the center of the debate once it goes before Congress.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been warning those interested for over a year about the US position which is to extend the copyright term as well as to crack down on copyright infringement, even when that infringement is not out for commercial purposes (think illegal downloads).

While the agreement looks like it will force at least half the countries involved to extend the length of the copyright terms, the EFF is concerned that it will effect all countries in the trade zone because it would prevent countries from considering shortening the length copyright applies. In other words, a really bad copyright situation gets even worst – all the to benefit of business, of course.

Details of the trade agreement should be available by Thanksgiving, at which time the Congress may start to weigh in on the deal – assuming the government has not been shutdown, that is.

Voici-coverPrivacy was at the center of a French court ruling which fined two celebrity gossip magazines for publishing pictures of President Francois Hollande and actress Julie Gayet. Hollande is not married, as is Gayet, so the issue is not at all about any possible affair, but strictly about privacy – and so Gayet sued.

The French court found two weeklies, VSD and Voici, guilty of breach of privacy and fined them 1,500 euros, more a symbolic amount rather than a punitive one. Both also will be forced to publish apologies.

Of the ruling Gayat’s lawyer said that it is “recognition of the right of the respect for private life. Photographs cannot be taken inside a private place, it’s a serious intrusion.”

The French President has bigger problems than pictures in a celebrity magazine: his approval rating has been so low that a jump in approval this summer following the Greek debt negotiations only raised his approval rating to 26 percent.

The New York Times avoided a strike by its pressmen, agreeing to extend the current deal with the New York Newspaper Pressmen’s Union, Local 2 through March 31, 2021. The current deal would have run out in 2017.

HuffPost-screenFor the first time in many years, union activity and the media has become a newsworthy item. The latest digital property to see union organizing is The Huffington Post where employees are in discussions with the Writers Guild of America, East.

Staff at Gawker, Salon, ThinkProgress, and writers at Vice Media have organized with the same union being considered by HuffPost employees, while Guardian US and the digital newsroom at Al Jazeera America are now being represented by the NewsGuild of New York.

In many of these cases, though not all, management has not actively opposed the union organizing.

“The Huffington Post believes in an environment of mutual respect among all our staff,” Arianna Huffington said in a statement. “Our top priority is always the happiness and well-being of our employees. We fully support our newsroom employees’ right to discuss unionizing and will embrace whatever decision they make on this issue.”

Many years ago, I was in the unusual position of being both the shop steward for the ad department, as well as a manager in that same department (though not an “exempt manager” and therefore non-union) while at the Hearst paper in Los Angeles. We went through tough negotiations at a time where inflation was forcing up pay, but when the paper was obviously struggling against its competitors, including the Los Angeles Times. Eventually all sides realized that a strike was out of the question (the paper had endured a nine year strike in the sixties) and so a deal was eventually hammered out.

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