Perth, Western Australia - 6th to 10th January 2014

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Building Effective Alliances around the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

This presentation suggests a variety of strategies and tactics that the Linux community might adopt when acting on political issues, with the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) being of particular concern at the moment. The TPPA is a multinational free trade agreement (FTA), and will probably build on and extend the damaging provisions imposed by the 2004 Australia-US FTA. The extent of damage likely to be done by the TPPA is not yet known, as only draft copies have been leaked and the negotiations remain secret.

Currently, free and open source communities often find ways deal with problematic laws, such as the copyright extensions and restrictions on circumventing technological restrictions brought in by the 2004 Australia-US FTA, with clever hacks of the legal system (such as copyleft and creative commons licenses); workarounds which meet the letter of the law (such as providing Linux installations without potentially-illegal codecs); or ignoring laws which seem unlikely to be enforced. However, all of these strategies have problems. Hacks can only go so far; relying on a lack of enforcement is risky; and workarounds make free and open source software less accessible for novice users and others who would prefer software that works out of the box. Part of the work of promoting free and open source software must therefore involve activism that is directly aimed at the TPPA and other FTAs.

Important activism did take place around the 2004 Australia-US FTA, including activism within Linux Australia led by Rusty Russell, Kimberlee Weatherall and others. Much of this took a similar form to activism currently happening around the TPPA: the focus has been on lobbying, letter-writing, and media relations. Coalition-building and other activism around the TPPA, as with the 2004 FTA, has predominantly taken place within tech communities. However, while this work has been valuable, it may be useful to explore other ways to build alliances with other communities and to draw on a broader range of activist tactics. This discussion will draw on some of the lessons learned from relatively successful attempts to oppose FTAs in the past, including protests in the late 1990s around the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and World Trade Organization negotiations, as well more recent FTAs such as those between the US and Malaysia and the Free Trade Area of the Americas proposed by the US. Drawing on this work, I willl suggest tactics for effective action, including use of a spectrum of allies model, organizational models which facilitate tiered levels of participation, and creative use of the Overton window. I will also outline some of the key groups opposing the TPPA outside of the tech community in both Australia and the US.

sky croeser

Dr. Sky Croeser is currently a lecturer and adjunct fellow at Curtin University. Her research and activism focuses on the ways in which activists are working to shape, as well as use, the technologies of everyday life. Her PhD was undertaken at UWA in the Department of Political Science and International relations, and will be published by Routledge in 2014 as 'Global Justice and the Politics of Information'. Her subsequent research has included work on digital liberties activism in India; the ways activists in the US, Tunisia, and Greece are using social media to organise and communicate; and the struggle for Internet freedoms in post-revolution Tunisia. As well as carrying out her own research, Sky is a reviewer for several open access journals, including First Monday. Sky has attended three World Social Forums and several conferences, unconferences, and other events looking at the intersection of activism and technology, is a co-founder of the Bluestocking Institute, and is a member of The Ada Initiative's advisory board. She is also involved in other activist groups around the world working on a range of issues.