NAFTA Negotiations: Authors Alliance Joins Public Interest Groups in Support of Transparency and Balanced Copyright Policy

Posted August 18, 2017
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Photo by James Sutton | CC0

Today, Authors Alliance joins with other public interest advocates such as Creative Commons, SPARC, Internet Archive, OpenMedia, and Public Knowledge to sign on to a statement in support of transparency and balanced copyright policy in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The statement was sent to the trade ministries of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, urging all three countries to make trade negotiation processes more transparent, inclusive, and accountable.

Closed-door trade agreements are not the right forum to create intellectual property policy, particularly when negotiations lack transparency. It is critically important that drafts of international agreements that address intellectual property issues be publicly available for comment so that authors and other stakeholders can weigh in on the proposed rules that will bind all member states. Moreover, such agreements are not flexible enough to account for rapid changes in technology.

Authors Alliance is particularly concerned that by shoehorning intellectual property issues in trade agreements without broad consultation, the resulting rules tend to favor longer copyright terms, increased enforcement measures, and harsh infringement penalties—without corresponding attention focused on appropriate limitations, such as robust fair use rights and other reasonable exceptions.

This imbalance does not serve the interest of authors and is out of step with our founding statement on Principles & Proposals for Copyright Reform. As both creators and users of content, authors depend upon balanced copyright policy that provides reasonable protection while not getting in the way of onward distribution and creation. Long copyright terms, for example, make it more likely that authors’ works will become unavailable or orphans. Lack of robust fair use exceptions, combined with harsh penalties, similarly make it more likely that authors’ works will go unused in subsequent works, limiting the original author’s reach and impeding the advancement of knowledge and culture. What’s more, users’ rights are authors’ rights. For example, authors rely on fair use in every phase of the creative process, and may need to circumvent digital rights management to create new works.

For these reasons, if NAFTA addresses intellectual property rights, “there must be active and enforceable mechanisms to protect exceptions and limitations regimes, fair use/fair dealing and the public domain, parties should resist extensions in copyright terms that punish new artists and creators, and there should be no increased criminalization for digital rights management circumvention.”

Further details can be found in the full text of the statement. Hover over the document below to view the statement in your browser, or download here.