If you're finding it hard to follow the machinations over the Fast Track bill, you're not alone—even Washington insiders are finding it hard to predict the administration's next move, as it changes from day to day. As of this morning, the House of Representatives has passed the Fast Track or Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill—but not the associated Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill that is a precondition of accepting Fast Track for pro-trade Democrats. This means that it's now up to the Senate to pass both bills if they can, and then to send TAA back to the House, on the strength of the assurance of Republican leaders that they will pass it there too—and that President Obama will wait to see both bills on his desk before he signs either.
There are a few sizable problems with this. One is the assumption that Republicans won't break ranks and refuse to pass TAA, a program that supports workers who are displaced by the effects of trade agreements, and that many Republicans oppose as inefficient. Another is that House Democrats won't block it when it returns to the House, as they already have once before. But the more fundamental issue is that TAA doesn't solve the problems that we have with Fast Track, or with the trade treaties such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that it enables.
TAA will not prevent the TPP from extending the term of copyright protection to a uniform life plus 70 years throughout the Pacific Rim, and simultaneously locking in that term at home. It won't stop the imposition of DMCA-like laws that prevent users from bypassing DRM simply in order to view or make fair use copies of their media. It will not prevent foreign corporations from suing the American government to stop it from adopting pro-user laws or policies, for example on orphan works (or, conversely, American corporations from suing our trading partners for introducing such laws or policies).
Despite the fact that it's a red-line for Democrats to accept Fast Track, make no mistake that TAA does not fix any of the problems that users are concerned with in the TPP or the other secretive trade agreements that Fast Track will enable. So the message from us to the Senate remains that despite the passage of Fast Track through the House, nothing fundamental has changed—the bill must still be blocked. This means our call to action remains live—and that your support is as crucial as ever.
Read about all of our concerns with the TPP:
- Anti-Circumvention of Digital Rights Management (DRM)
- Criminalization of Investigative Journalism, Security Research, and Whistleblowing
- ISP Liability: Internet Intermediaries as Copyright Cops
- Criminal Copyright Enforcement
- Expansion of Copyright Terms
- "Investor-State" Provisions Could Undermine User Protections in Copyright
- Restrictions on Fair Use