The Trans-Pacific Partnership: ©oncord or ©onspiracy?
Free Press Music Columnist
Last week, we looked at a recent court decision which may serve to dramatically strengthen the Fair Use provision of U.S. copyright law. This week, though, we’ll discuss the recently leaked, secretly negotiated international trade deal which may demolish it instead.
On Wednesday, Nov. 13, WikiLeaks published almost 100 pages from a recent draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP for short. The TPP is a trade agreement like NAFTA, which would have immense ramifications for our freedom of speech, being constructed behind tightly closed doors by negotiating teams representing 12 countries, including the United States. President Obama has stated the purpose of the TPP is to bolster opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses in a growing global economy — but, as the WikiLeaks revelations reveal, any economic boost might be at the serious expense of our culture, not to mention our rights to privacy and due process.
The TPP would extend the terms of protection for intellectual properties, expand the application of intellectual property (or I.P.) rights to data, grow the granting of patents and dramatically increase the penalties for I.P. rights infringement. Fair Use provisions would be eroded even further than they already have been during the past half-century. All of this would occur at a time when intellectual property experts are reaching a consensus that it is precisely the proliferation of patents and the lengthening of I.P. protection periods which is choking development at both technological and cultural levels. We now have the term “patent troll” for companies which buy up existing patents and then become “litigation machines.” This has increased the cost of software and even medicinal development, and driven up costs in the tech and health care sectors.
Have you ever wondered why Hollywood’s output is dominated nowadays by remakes and comic book adaptations? Some of this cultural behavior is driven by the rules governing the extension of copyright laws. The most recent Superman adaptation, “The Man of Steel,” did very well at the box office, but it might not ever have been made were it not for the vagaries of copyright law. Time-Warner was compelled to make a Superman movie just to retain their rights to the character. Whatever your feelings about that particular film (Craven, who is for the most part a big fan of superhero flicks, hated it), would we rather have a film industry which makes movies to satisfy arcane legal requirements, or to meet our human desire for good stories told well?
Another provision of the TPP would revive aspects of the SOPA and ACTA treaties and turn internet providers into copyright police. This could prove to be one of the most heinous results of the TPP. In the weeks since WikiLeaks released the TPP fragment, new revelations have come to light of how our existing laws have already been terribly abused by major corporations. We’ll focus in on that next week in this series examining recent controversies in the world of copyright.
Craven Lovelace is the producer of the Notes Blog & Podcast at http://cravenlovelace.com/notesblog and also writes about popular culture at the Cravenomena blog at http://cravenlovelace.com/cravenblog/. You can also find him on Facebook. Notes is made possible by Tina Harbin of Real Estate West, the premier resource for all real estate information and services on the Western Slope.
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