Under the copyright term extensions we've seen in leaked drafts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the quarter of a billion people living in six of the negotiating countries could lose access to 20 years of the public domain. This proposal conflicts not just with common sense, but with the suggestions from the United States Register of Copyrights that the U.S. policymakers should address the downsides of exceedingly long terms. We've sounded the alarm on that issue through a campaign highlighting TPP's Copyright Trap.
Just a few days into this campaign, over a thousand members of the EFF community have signed a petition urging the U.S. Copyright Office to affirm its call for sensible copyright term reforms, which can only happen if countries are not restricted by ill-considered international agreements. You can add your voice to that chorus today:
Meanwhile, we are not alone in demanding trade negotiators reject copyright language that doesn't reflect the public interest. In the last week, both Public Knowledge and Knowledge Ecology International have published letters about trade policy. Public Knowledge's letter to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) calls for robust copyright exceptions and limitations and an agreement that doesn't harm the public domain:
Limitations and exceptions to intellectual property rights are absolutely critical to a functioning marketplace. The digital revolution has ushered in an era of ubiquitous content. Even without actively seeking out knowledge properties, the average American is constantly being exposed to—and interacting with—copyrighted and patented goods. Overbroad intellectual property protections create a minefield of liability through which no consumer, no matter how savvy, can reasonably be expected to navigate.
KEI's letter, addressed to the members of the Copyright Office, the Patent and Trademark Office, and the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, calls on those specialized agencies to flag specific problems with the agreement text:
Unlike the general public, your voice really matters in this negotiation. If the TPP ends up making all of the mistakes that we have identified in this letter, do not let it be because none of you mobilized your own agencies to educate the USTR about U.S. copyright law, took a stand on the copyright term issue, or did anything to protect the flexibility of a future Congress to fix the orphan works issue.
We hope that domestic agencies in all TPP countries push back, and that negotiators listen. As the latest round of TPP meetings take place in Maui, the trade representatives had better be paying attention to the growing calls of the public.
Our TPP's Copyright Trap campaign links to more articles about how the threat of copyright term extension under the TPP impacts users around the world.