Today, ARTICLE 19 joins a coalition of civil society groups, individuals and internet companies in signing two letters against the extension of copyright terms and draconian intermediary liability provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), a multilateral trade agreement between the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
As the 20th round of negotiations of the TPP is underway in Ottawa, Canada, the text of the agreement is still shrouded in secrecy despite its serious implications for fundamental rights. One of the rare sources of information about the content of the agreement is a leaked draft of the Intellectual Property (IP) Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement published by Wikileaks on 13 November 2013.
Longer copyright terms do not incentivise creativity
The leaked document revealed a proposal of extending of copyright terms by another 20 years, adding to the TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) minimum term of life plus 50 years. The first letter signed by many civil society organisations and individuals warns against the dangers of further extension of copyright terms. As we already made clear in our analysis of the leaked IP Chapter of the TPP, such a move would severely infringe Internet users’ rights to freedom of expression by dramatically shrinking the public domain. Moreover, several studies based on economic evidence clearly show that extending the copyright term beyond its present levels does not create any additional incentivising effects on the creativity of the author.
Intermediaries should not be turned into copyright police
ARTICLE 19 also signed onto a second letter together with a group of Internet service providers, tech companies, and organizations representing engineers and users warning about the provisions on intermediary liability in the proposed (leaked) TPP agreement. Strict intermediary liability provisions that rely on the principle of “takedown first and ask questions later”, have a chilling effect on freedom of expression as internet intermediaries are given an incentive to remove content based on mere allegations of copyright infringement. This is especially worrying as rights holders’ takedown notices are often automated. We therefore warned in the Principles on Freedom of Expression and Copyright in the Digital Age (The Right to Share Principles) that notice-and-takedown provisions fall short of international standards on freedom of expression.
ARTICLE 19 urges the TPP Agreement negotiators and elected representatives at home to open the negotiations to public scrutiny by releasing the draft TPP text currently under negotiations and opening it for comment. We further call on the negotiators to reject any proposals to extend copyright terms beyond the existing terms under the Berne Convention and to oppose any attempt to enlist intermediaries as “copyright police”.