The TPP and Copyright

This is my second post about the leaked draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.  Here, I address some of the copyright provisions. This is not an exhaustive analysis, and I’ve tried to make it complimentary to what’s already out there. For analysis of additional provisions, see KEI, Public Citizen, Ars Technica, Kimberlee Weatherall for an Australian perspective, and EFF. [Note: I have updated this post .]

First, there are major splits between countries. The United States consistently takes the position of pushing for stronger IP, while others—especially Canada and New Zealand— advocate a more balanced approach.  The divisions are particularly prominent when it comes to preliminary statements about the public domain and public health, none of which the U.S. supports.  These analyses are on one subset of proposed language, not finalized language, and a lot of the agreement could change. I focus my analysis primarily on the U.S. proposed language.

Second, the U.S. proposals look very similar to our past Free Trade Agreements, including the earlier texts of ACTA.  Whatever message was sent when the EU refused to ratify ACTA, the U.S. Trade Representative did not receive it.  Many of the provisions that appeared in ACTA are also areas of proposed reform in the United States—the U.S. proposed text for the TPP would internationally bind this country and prevent many proposed reforms to our copyright law.

Third, and this is an important point: U.S. proposals are less balanced than U.S. domestic law. As I noted in my previous post, this is because a subset of IP industries provide the USTR advice, leaving out important balancing viewpoints and sometimes misrepresenting U.S. law.

Similarities to ACTA:

Intermediary liability (Article QQ.I.1): As in ACTA, the central copyright argument in TPP is over what kind of intermediary liability regime will be internationally required.  Currently, online intermediary liability is not governed at an international level.  Michael Geist has done a great job of outlining the basic differences in the TPP proposals for intermediary liability. The United States is pushing for notice-and-takedown, with a coalition of countries, including Canada and New Zealand, pushing instead for a notice-only provision.  These regimes offer different levels of due process for Internet users.

Statutory damages (ARTICLE QQ.H.4.Y(15)): As in ACTA, countries are fighting over statutory (or “pre-established”) damages: damages awarded to copyright owners without a showing of actual harm.  Australia opposes this provision because it does not have statutory damages. Statutory damages are an often-criticized part of the U.S. regime, enabling disproportionately large awards in copyright cases.

Criminal liability (Article QQ.H.7(2)): As in ACTA, countries have split over the definition of criminal copyright infringement.  The U.S. proposal, like U.S. law, pushes to criminalize very low level infringement, to go after even low level filesharing.  Other countries want to keep it at the international requirement, which requires a motive of financial gain or commercial advantage.  The United States lost a recent WTO case on criminal copyright, and has since been trying to ratchet up international criminal copyright law through free trade agreements.

Criminal Intermediary liability (Article QQ.H.7(6)): As in ACTA, the TPP criminalizes aiding and abetting infringement. This allows authorities to go after websites under criminal law, rerouting around protections from civil liability. Coupled with a low underlying threshold for criminal infringement, this could sweep in a lot of activity. Thanks to Kimberlee Weatherall for catching this.

Asset Forfeiture (Article QQ.H.7(c) p. 79): As in ACTA, the TPP allows the seizure of “any related materials and implements used in the commission of the alleged offense”. In the United States, asset forfeiture has been used to seize websites before trial.

DRM/Technological Protection Measures (Article QQ.G.10): As in ACTA, the United States is trying to export the DRM provisions of the DMCA, as its version of implementation of the WIPO Copyright Treaty. As I note below, however, what’s proposed is a worse version of what we have at home. The recent conflict over cell-phone unlocking shows that this is likely to be the focus of domestic policy reform. Some suggest that the DRM provisions here criminalize unlocking even when the underlying purpose is fair use.

De minimis border measures (the “Ipod search”)( Article QQ.H.6(8)): As in ACTA, the United States is pushing to shrink the “personal use” border exception that currently exists in international law, in TRIPS Article 60.  For now, however, it looks as though the de minimis provision is functionally the same as TRIPS, due to a strategic footnote (235).  This is something to watch.

Account termination (Article QQ.I.1(p. 88)): In U.S. copyright law, there’s a provision requiring online intermediaries to have a termination policy in place for repeat copyright infringers. Similar language has been proposed in the draft TPP. As Annemarie Bridy has pointed out, this language may have different implications in different countries.  It probably does not require graduated response.  However, its inclusion can also be read as endorsing recently developed private-ordering graduated response in the United States: agreements between private companies to kick infringing users offline. And transplanting this language into other countries might lead them to push for similar or more draconian policies.

Things that differ from US law:

Fair Use/Exceptions and Limitations language (Article QQ.G.Y): There‘s no fair use. The broadened copyright exceptions language that the USTR bragged about earlier this year is not very broad. And it’s not fair use.  This may harm our exporting businesses.  Google just won the Google Books case, where Google books was found to be fair use; TPP shows no evidence of extending that kind of exception abroad.

International First Sale Doctrine (Article QQ.G.3,  Article QQ.G.17):  Despite the fact that the Supreme Court held in Kirtsaeng in March that first sale doctrine applies abroad—and trumps the importation right—the USTR is exporting the opposite. The USTR also opposes saying that countries are encouraged to establish international exhaustion of rights. All other countries (except Canada, which is neutral) want international first sale doctrine. It’s not clear to me why the USTR thinks it can bind the US to law contrary to Kirtsaeng—and this draft is from months after the Kirtsaeng opinion came down. I’m happy to be convinced otherwise, but I can’t see how the two are reconcilable.

Temporary reproductions (Article QQ.G.1): Despite the fact that there is a circuit split over whether temporary reproductions are considered “fixed” enough to be copyrightable, the USTR proposes exporting a requirement that temporary reproductions are covered by copyright.

Standard technical measures (Article QQ.I.1(p. 88)):  In the DMCA, there is a requirement that intermediaries accommodate “standard technical measures.”  However, those measures must be arrived at through a multi-industry process that is open and fair. In practice, this means that there are no standard technical measures in the United States. The words “multi-industry” and “fair” get left out of the TPP, which means that standard technical measures may get developed  abroad, and online intermediaries will have to accommodate them there, where they don’t have to at home.

Criminal liability ((Article QQ.H.7(2)):  U.S. criminal copyright law contains a numerical threshold for criminal copyright infringement that is done without commercial motivation- $1000 of infringement in 180 days. The TPP proposal substitutes the word “significant” for an actual number. This difference could go either way.

Notice-and-takedown misuse & attorneys’ fees (Article QQ.I.1 (p.89)): In the DMCA, people who misuse notice-and-takedown can be sued, and are subject to attorneys’ fees.  Even though the US proposal clearly asks for attorneys’ fees in other places, it does not include attorneys’ fees in the material misrepresentation provision.

Reverse engineering exemption to TPM/DRM (Article QQ.G.10): Thanks to Jonathan Band for pointing this one out to me originally. The reverse engineering exception to DRM exported by the US is not as broad as the one available domestically.

Privacy (Article QQ.I.1): TPP barely mentions privacy.  There are some discussions of a no-duty-to-monitor provision, but no broader assertion of privacy principles that I can find.  We don’t normally think of U.S. law as containing a nod to balancing copyright enforcement with privacy, but it turns out that 512(m)(2), which says providers shall not access content contrary to law, was intended to bolster the “no monitoring necessary” requirement to mean “no monitoring necessary, AND don’t violate wiretap law.” This didn’t make it in.

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1 Response

  1. Singularity Point says:

    The attacks on the Internet’s openness, fair use, neutrality and so on seem to be endless. I feel like the governments, especially the defacto government THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Corp. (yes, it’s been incorporated , would you believe(?)) are trying to wear us out; obviously.

    But, hey, I can still type, so I’m commenting against these government initiated offences, such as the anti-Internet provisions of the TPP.