Tag Archives: NAFTA

What’s In (and Out) of the IP Chapter of the United States, Mexico, Canada Trade Agreement

Yesterday, Canada announced—just in time for the self-imposed deadline by the negotiating parties of September 30— that it would join the trade agreement with the United States and Mexico. This agreement, a renegotiation of NAFTA, which apparently is also being called the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA, includes much more prescriptive provision on intellectual property than what was included in the original NAFTA. The original NAFTA text on intellectual property, written in a different era of trade agreements, does not include language on copyright term or issues covered by the WIPO Internet Treaties (NAFTA was negotiated before the WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty).

Presumably any deal that Canada agreed to in the renegotiation was going to be more prescriptive, with greater rights for rightholders, than in the original NAFTA. However, it is also worse, at least in some respects, than what Canada, Mexico and the United States—and nine other countries—had agreed to in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) (see analysis of that text here), which the United States withdrew from after Trump became President. (Note: after the United States’ withdrawal from the TPP, the remaining 11 countries in the negotiations—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam—renegotiated and formed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, which suspended many of the United States’ demands on copyright and other IP provisions).

Here’s a look at what’s in—and out—of the renegotiated IP chapter, as compared to both the original NAFTA text and the TPP text:

Limitations and Exceptions 

Arguably the biggest disappointment in the recently released text is what the IP chapter does not include. The TPP had included language based off a United States proposal from 2012 on limitations and exceptions. The TPP obligated parties to try and achieve balance in their copyright systems. Article 18.66 of the TPP read: 

Each Party shall endeavour to achieve an appropriate balance in its copyright and related rights system, among other things by means of limitations or exceptions that are consistent with Article 18.65 (Limitations and Exceptions), including those for the digital environment, giving due consideration to legitimate purposes such as, but not limited to: criticism; comment; news reporting; teaching, scholarship, research, and other similar purposes; and facilitating access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.

While the language could have been stronger—for example by mandating that parties achieve a balance, rather than merely “endeavor[in]g” to do so, a provision on balanced copyright was seen as a success, recognizing the importance of limitations and exceptions in copyright. When trade agreements or laws only include provisions regarding the rights of rightholders, the rights of users get ignored. It is disappointing that the United States chose not to propose balancing language, but instead included limiting language with respect to limitations and exceptions (requiring parties to “confine” limitations and exceptions to the three-step test of 1) certain special cases; 2) that do not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work; and 3) do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interest of the right holder.). 

Copyright Term

Copyright term is one of the most significant areas with respect to copyright where Canada will be forced to change its law. As noted above, NAFTA did not contain provisions dictating copyright term (and, of course, was negotiated prior to the United States’ own term extension). Canada currently has a copyright term of the life of the author plus fifty years, but with the USMCA text, will need to extend that term to life plus seventy. Perhaps this concession was to be expected since TPP parties also agreed to the term, yet the consequences to the public domain are significant. The United States has seen a moratorium on published works entering the public domain for the last twenty years due to copyright term extension agreed to in 1998. The public domain is critical for the creation of new knowledge and culture and copyright term plays a significant role in closing off the public domain. This term goes well beyond international standards.

Additionally, Canada agreed to further extension of copyright term for corporate works, beyond what had been agreed to in the TPP. While the TPP parties agreed to providing corporate works (works that are not measured on the life of the author) with 70 years of protection, the USMCA text requires 75 years.

Technological Protection Measures

Because NAFTA went into force in 1994, it did not include provisions that have been found in the era after the WIPO Internet Treaties, such as anti-circumvention measures.  The new provisions in USMCA mirror the text on anti-circumvention of several past bilateral trade agreements by the United States. It requires parties to make it an offense to “knowingly, or having reasonable grounds to know” circumvent technological protection measures, or to manufacture or distribute devices primarily designed or are promoted for the purposes of circumvention. This language is highly prescriptive and detailed. It also includes a closed-list set of seven limitations and exceptions to the anti-circumvention measures, plus a provision permitting “additional exceptions or limitations for noninfringing uses of a particular class of works, performances, or phonograms, when an actual or likely adverse impact on those noninfringing uses is demonstrated by substantial evidence in a legislative, regulatory or administrative proceeding in accordance with the Party’s law.” The text also makes circumvention an independent and separate cause of action, apart from any underlying copyright infringement.

On a positive note, the language regarding additional limitations and exceptions is not restricted to a three-year rulemaking cycle, as exists in the United States and several other trade agreements. From the agreed-to text, it appears that parties may provide for permanent limitations and exceptions, if permitted by domestic law.

While similar language regarding making circumvention an independent cause of action existed in the TPP, the TPP provision was potentially mitigated by a helpful footnote reading, “A Party may provide that the obligations described . . .with respect to manufacturing, importation and distribution apply only where such activities are undertaken for sale or rental, or where such activities prejudice the interests of the right holder of the copyright or related right.” Making circumvention a “separate and independent cause of action” is controversial and makes little sense, negatively impacting legitimate and non-infringing circumvention.

It is also disappointing to see the inclusion once more of a closed-list set of limitations and exceptions, mirroring those found in the United States’ copyright law, which have been criticized domestically as being overly-narrow and, in some cases, useless.

Objectives and Principles

The USMCA includes high-level objectives and principles that recognize at least some level of balance and mirrors language found in the TPP. Article 20.A.2, for example, notes that intellectual property protection and enforcement “should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations.” Similarly, the principles provide that parties may “adopt measures necessary to protection public health and nutrition, and to promote the public interest in sectors of vital importance to their socio-economic and technological development, provided that such measures are consistent with the provisions of this Chapter.”

While this acknowledgement of balance is welcome, the lack of specific provisions regarding balance underscores the fact that the agreement strengthens the rights of rightholders, ratcheting up protections, without providing the same for users.

Remedies Allow for Judicial Discretion

Another welcome inclusion is language on proportionality that was also found in the TPP, requiring parties to “take into account the need for proportionality between the seriousness of the intellectual property infringement, and the applicable remedies and penalties, as well as the interests of third parties.”

ISP Liability

The USMCA language includes prescriptive provisions regarding safe harbors for Internet service providers. Like the TPP, it includes a carve-out to accommodate the Canadian system of notice-and-notice (as opposed to the United States’ notice-and-takedown). As noted on this blog previously, the flexibility to implement notice-and-notice is limited to Canada only because it is restricted to where such a system exists as “the date of agreement in principle” to USMCA.

For additional reading, Michael Geist has a nice summary from a Canadian perspective.

Balanced Copyright in CPTPP and NAFTA

This week is Fair Use Week, an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use and fair dealing. It is designed to highlight and promote the opportunities presented by fair use and fair dealing, celebrate successful stories, and explain these doctrines.

*This is a guest blog post by Jonathan Band, policybandwidth*

The “balanced copyright” provision of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) Agreement has been included in the successor agreement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (“CPTPP”), negotiated by the remaining TPP parties after the United States pulled out of the TPP. However, it appears that the U.S. government is opposing the provision’s inclusion in the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”), currently under renegotiation. This is ironic given that the United States originally proposed inclusion of the provision, based on the U.S. fair use doctrine, in TPP. Thus, the eleven parties to the CPTPP now appear more dedicated to a U.S. legal principle than the United States itself.

TPP

Article 18.66 of the IP chapter of the TPP required each party to “endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance in its copyright and related rights systems.” This balance was to be achieved by means of limitations and exceptions that gave “due consideration to legitimate purposes such as, but not limited to: criticism; comment; news reporting; teaching, scholarship, research and other similar purposes; and facilitating access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise disabled.”

The United States originally proposed this language during the July 2012 round of TPP negotiations in San Diego, CA. (See here for more detailed discussion of the development of Article 18.66.) The provision’s list of legitimate purposes was based on the list of purposes in 17 U.S.C. 107, which codifies the fair use doctrine. The U.S. explained that “[t]hese principles are critical aspects of the U.S. copyright system, and appear in both our law and jurisprudence. The balance sought by the U.S. TPP proposal recognizes and promotes respect for the important interests of individuals, businesses, and institutions who rely on appropriate exceptions and limitations in the TPP region.”

Twelve countries, including the United States, signed the TPP on February 4, 2016. On January 23, 2017, the day after his inauguration, President Trump withdrew from the TPP, which had not yet come into effect.

CPTPP

The remaining eleven TPP parties—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam–agreed on a revised TPP on January 23, 2018. The new agreement, named the CPTPP, is largely the same as the TPP, except that the parties decided to suspend 20 provisions that had been demanded by the United States in the TPP. With respect to copyright, the parties suspended the provisions relating to copyright term, circumvention of technological protection measures, and safe harbors for Internet service providers. Significantly, the parties did not suspend the balanced copyright provision, even though it had originally been proposed by the United States. Thus, the eleven CPTPP countries have obligated themselves the endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance in the copyright systems.

NAFTA

Once President Trump announced that the United States would renegotiate NAFTA, it was assumed that the United States would use the TPP IP chapter as the template for the new NAFTA IP chapter since Mexico, Canada, and the United States had already agreed to that language in TPP and the TPP IP chapter reflected so many of the U.S. demands. Nonetheless, the copyright industries launched a lobbying campaign against incorporation of the “balanced copyright” and ISP safe harbor provisions.

The Copyright Alliance, for example, asserted that while it “believe[s] in a ‘balanced’ copyright system,” the “concept of ‘balance’ is actively being twisted and used as a vehicle for weakening copyright protections….” For this reason, it is “skeptical about including this type of language in a trade agreement.” Similarly, the Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”) argued that “efforts to export the American fair use exception are particularly troubling.” Accordingly, RIAA believed that the United States should not support “broad provisions that could diminish, or otherwise generate legal uncertainty with respect to, the three-step test.”

However, there is no evidence that the concept of balance is being twisted or that the export of fair use would lead to uncertainty or the weakening of copyright protection in a troubling manner. The example of Israel is instructive. Israel adopted a fair use provisions similar to 17 U.S.C. 107 in 2007. Since then, Israeli courts have applied fair use stringently. They have imposed a fifth factor not included in the statute: the defendant must provide attribution to the author. Moreover, Israeli courts have found fair use at a lower rate than U.S. courts. Thus, the Israeli courts’ implementation of fair use demonstrates that U.S. copyright owners have nothing to fear from the export of fair use. In any event, TPP article 18.66 does not require adoption of a fair use provision; it simply imposes an obligation to endeavor to achieve balance.

Balance as a Traditional Contour of U.S. Copyright Law

An even more unreasonable objection to a balanced copyright provision in NAFTA appeared in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, by twenty-five conservative organizations. These groups, which have no knowledge of the copyright system, urged the USTR “to reject calls for NAFTA to include ‘users’ rights,’ which was manifested in the Obama-era concept of copyright ‘balance.’”

Contrary to the letter’s suggestion, copyright balance is not an “Obama-era” concept. Rather, it is a principle the U.S. Supreme Court and courts of appeals articulated repeatedly long before the Obama Administration.

Thus, the Supreme Court in Bonito Boats, Inc. v. Thunder Craft Boats, Inc., 489 U.S. 141, 146 (1989), observed that the Constitution’s intellectual property clause “itself reflects a balance between the need to encourage innovation and the avoidance of monopolies which stifle competition without any concomitant advance in the ‘Progress of Science and useful Arts.’”

In Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417, 429 (1984), the Supreme Court stated that “Congress has been assigned the task of defining the scope of the limited monopoly that should be granted to authors or inventors in order to give the public appropriate access to their work product…[T]his task involves a difficult balance between the interests of authors and inventors in the control and exploitation of their writings and discoveries on the one hand, and society’s competing interest in the free flow of ideas, information, and commerce on the other….”

In Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 545 U.S. 913, 928 (2005), the Supreme Court recognized that the copyright law maintained a “balance between the respective values of supporting creative pursuits through copyright protection and promoting innovation in new communication technologies by limiting the incidence of liability for copyright infringement.” The Court noted that “[t]he more artistic protection is favored, the more technological innovation may be discouraged; the administration of copyright law is an exercise in managing the trade-off.” Id.

The federal courts of appeals likewise have recognized the concept of copyright balance. The Second Circuit stated that “the copyright law seeks to establish a delicate equilibrium. On the one hand, it affords protection to authors as an incentive to create, and, on the other hand, it must appropriately limit the extent of that protection so as to avoid the effects of monopolistic stagnation.” Computer Assocs. Int’l, Inc., v. Altai, Inc., 982 F.2d 693, 696 (2d Cir. 1992).

Similarly, the Fifth Circuit wrote that in the Copyright Act “Congress balanced the competing concerns of providing incentive to authors to create and of fostering competition in such creativity.” Kern River Gas Transmission Co. v. Coastal Corp., 899 F.2d 1458, 1463 (5th Cir. 1990).

The Federal Circuit, referring to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a statute criticized in the December 18 letter, noted that in enacting the DMCA, “Congress attempted to balance the legitimate interests of copyright owners with those of consumers of copyrighted products.” Chamberlain Group v. Skylink Tech., Inc., 381 F.3d 1178, 1203 (Fed. Cir. 2004). The court observed that under the plaintiff’s interpretation, which would have “eliminated all balance and granted copyright owners carte blanche authority to preclude all use, Congressional intent would remain unrealized.” Id.

It is curious that a group of conservative organizations would disparage users’ rights in favor of what the Supreme Court has described as a government granted monopoly. It is even more curious that these organizations would suggest that exceptions and limitations such as fair use “should be contracting, not expanding, in the digital age.” After all, the Supreme Court in Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186, 219 (2003), explained that fair use is one of the “traditional contours of copyright protection that acts as “a built-in First Amendment accommodation[].” Surely these groups support the First Amendment—and that is what the concept of balanced copyright is all about.

ICYMI: New Advocacy and Public Policy Update

On May 19, 2017, ARL released its latest Advocacy and Public Policy Update. The topics covered in this update include various copyright issues (Register of Copyrights bill, Copyright Office study on moral rights, Copyright Office rulemaking on modernizing copyright recordation, and numerous amicus briefs filed), LSU v. Elsevier, appropriations, access to and preservation of government data, net neutrality, developments on trade agreements, and issues related to immigration and border control.  The full update is available here.