Public Knowledge Responds to New US-Mexico-Canada Agreement

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Last night, the White House announced that it had reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), now rebranded as the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Based on an initial review of the text recently released, Public Knowledge finds that the agreement’s intellectual property (IP) chapter reflects the priorities of major corporate rightsholders while neglecting consumer and public interests.

The following can be attributed to Gus Rossi, Global Policy Director at Public Knowledge:

“The USMCA’s IP chapter is a missed opportunity to truly adapt NAFTA to the 21st century. The agreement’s IP chapter, and particularly its copyright provisions, promotes the major interests of big entertainment and technology companies but fails to protect consumers, users, entrepreneurs, and the public at large.

“The goal of copyright law should be to encourage innovation and creation, and ultimately foster the advance and dissemination of knowledge and culture. That’s why U.S. law reflects a balanced approach to intellectual property, with important limitations and exceptions to the rights of copyright holders. In its present form, the USMCA exports only half of the American copyright system, locking in rightsholder protections in precise detail without most of their essential exceptions and limitations. For example, USMCA requires that copyrights persist for 70 years beyond the death of a work’s author, but fails to require that these century-plus copyrights be subject to principles of fair use, without which the everyday activities of scholars, social media users, search engines, and many artists would be illegal.

“The contents of the USMCA’s IP chapter would have benefited from a modicum of transparency and public deliberation. Instead, the text was written entirely in secret, and only revealed after negotiations concluded, with no apparent room for revisions. Even some of the USTR’s official advisory committees have been shut out of the process. Congress should revise the Trade Promotion Authority to guarantee that future trade negotiations are conducted in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, and with a minimum of democratic transparency.

Public Knowledge will soon publish more detailed analyses of the USMCA’s intellectual property chapter and other internet-related provisions.

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