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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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No One’s “Signed Away” the Right to Unlock Cell Phones

March 14, 2013 DMCA , DRM , Forum Shopping , USTR

Several people have raised the specter of trade agreements standing in the way of cell phone unlocking. The basic idea is that, in a broad trade negotiation between the US and South Korea (and in a number of others), the two countries agreed to make sure their copyright laws had certain similar features. Among those were requirements that they have laws against breaking digital locks to access copyrighted works, and that they only have certain kinds of exemptions to them. Cell phone unlocking is not one of the specific exemptions.

Mike Masnick at Techdirt characterizes this (at least in the article’s title) as the US “signing away” its ability to enact a more permanent exemption for phone unlocking.

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What We Learn (and Don’t Learn) from the TPP Transparency Fact Sheet

June 27, 2012 TPP , Transparency , USTR

The debate over transparency in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) rages on. Yesterday the US Trade Representative (USTR) released a fact sheet on transparency in the TPP negotiations. The fact sheet basically summarizes how the USTR perceives its transparency efforts to date and how it responds to outcry from members of Congress and the public that the level of secrecy surrounding the TPP negotiations is unacceptable.

While this fact sheet is better than no response at all, it does little to address substantive concerns about secrecy in TPP and in fact only shows how public input and accountability is directly dependent on the open availability of substantive information about the TPP’s proposed text.

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Credit Where Credit Is Due: USTR Accommodates Stakeholder Presentations

June 5, 2012 TPP , Transparency , USTR

The US Trade Representative (USTR) just recently announced that it will accommodate both formal presentations and less structured events for stakeholders in the next round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. This is a promising step forward for the USTR’s public engagement efforts, even though it cannot solve the serious problems caused by the lack of transparency in the TPP negotiations.

Combining the Best of Both Worlds

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USTR Gone Rogue

May 16, 2012 TPP , Transparency , USTR

In previous blog posts, Public Knowledge generally described the stakeholder events that occurred this past weekend at the TPP negotiations in Dallas, to give readers a sense of the structure that public interest groups work within during negotiations. This post will be dedicated to the actual substance of the conversations we had with the USTR during those events.

Stakeholder Engagement: A Huge Disappointment

While we thought the general structure of the stakeholder tabling event has its advantages and disadvantages, the substance of the conversations we had with USTR representatives during that event made us seriously concerned that the USTR cannot be prevailed upon to represent the public without complete transparency.

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