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Copyright and Secrecy Don’t Make for Good Trade Agreements

May 10, 2013 ACTA , International , Limitations & Exceptions , Transparency , USTR

Dear USTR, copyright has meaningful non-economic and social value; keep it out of the U.S.-E.U. Free Trade Agreement. If you have to have it, make sure it protects all Americans and not just large content owners. (And make the agreement transparent and inclusive while you’re at it.)


Today we filed comments about the proposed United States-European Union Free Trade Agreement – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). We told the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that copyright is an uncomfortable fit for a trade agreement and should be kept out of the TTIP.

If the USTR still wants to include copyright within the TTIP, it should make sure that a copyright chapter in the TTIP will not impede Congress’s ability to change U.S. copyright laws.

We also asked the USTR to break from the past and not negotiate the TTIP in secret.

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EU Parliament Rejects ACTA: Ray of Hope for TPP

July 5, 2012 ACTA , Limitations & Exceptions , TPP

Yesterday, we were treated to news of a very positive development from Europe: the European Parliament voted, by a massive majority (478-39), to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

This rejection comes after more than five years of negotiations that were plagued by controversy and outcry against ACTA’s secretive process. So what should you make of this rejection and what lessons should future trade negotiators learn from the ACTA experience?

For one, it should be apparent that the negotiating process is just as important as the substance. Shutting out the public and their representatives and giving privileged access to the entertainment and pharmaceutical industries severely undermines the legitimacy of the negotiating exercise.

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TPP and a Very Basic Point About Transparency

May 14, 2012 ACTA , Enforcement , Forum Shopping , International , Transparency

If you’ve been following this space, you’ve likely seen that Public Knowledge was on the ground in Dallas this past weekend, covering the latest round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, or TPP. Among the various problems with the agreement itself (possible increases to already-draconian copyright penalties internationally, increased emphasis on protecting DRM, a lack of inclusion of well-established limitations and exceptions like library uses and fair use), there’s the fact that the agreement itself remains a closely guarded secret. The public is apparently not allowed to see even the opening positions their governments are making in negotiations.

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The 2012 Special 301 Report Continues to do the Bidding of the Content Industry

May 1, 2012 ACTA , Enforcement , International , Special 301

The “Special 301 Report” is an annual report compiled by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), supposedly identifying countries that do not provide adequate and effective protection to the intellectual property rights of US persons.

In practice, Special 301 has turned into an arm-twisting exercise forcing countries to pass laws and adopt practices favored by large copyright and patent holders and often not in the public interest.

The office of the USTR published its 2012 Special 301 Report today. We are still analyzing the report, but here are our first impressions:

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TPP Tranparency Problems Keep Getting Worse

April 10, 2012 ACTA , TPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiation shuts out public participation and we have written extensively about why that is a problem. The agency leading the negotiation, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), however, seems completely oblivious to these problems, arguing instead that it has given opportunities to all stakeholders to present their views. The mere opportunity to present our views to the USTR, without more, does not cure problems with TPP’s process. However, it provides us with a minuscule opportunity to influence its outcome.

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