Senator Hatch's Plan To Give Hollywood The Key Seat At The Table For All Future Trade Negotiations

from the crony-capitalism dept

We recently wrote about Senator Orrin Hatch’s plans to create a special new ambassador-level role within the USTR for someone focused solely on pushing copyright and patent maximalism around the globe. Hatch actually claimed that intellectual property issues don’t get enough attention in international trade negotiations. This is ridiculous, as IP issues have actually been getting way too much attention — so much so that the announcement of the bill came just days after a huge number of public interest groups put together a letter stating that we should take intellectual property out of international trade agreements entirely.

There was one oddity, of course: despite announcing the bill, and even having a bill number for it (S.660), Hatch did not immediately release the actual text of the bill he was proposing. That text is now out and the EFF has jumped in with a thorough analysis of why it’s a disaster. Basically, as expected, this is not about more effective or reasonable stances on intellectual property in international trade agreements. No, the bill is fairly explicit that this is solely about helping out legacy companies push through what’s in their own best interests, rather than the public’s interest (which is what the Constitution says patents and copyrights are supposed to be about).

The new Chief “Intellectual Property” Negotiator would have to be approved by the Senate Finance Committee — of which Senator Hatch himself is the Ranking Member — and would be required to “be a vigorous advocate on behalf of United States innovation and intellectual property interests.” That is to say, this representative wouldn’t be there to represent the public interest, or the average Americans who are paying his or her salary.

Worse still, this proposal comes at the precise moment that the legacy content industry’s trade agenda has shown itself to be most at odds with the public interest. In particular, opponents of an effective and permanent fix to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act’s ban on phone-unlocking have cited language in recent trade agreements as a reason why any such legislation could be impossible — even though it’s been described as simple “common sense” by the White House. Regardless of the truth of those opponents’ claims, they slow the pace of change, even for extremely popular proposals. In other words, industry interests at the international level are trying to tie the hands of democratically elected legislators and dictate which laws are unacceptable.

Hollywood is already deeply, deeply embedded into the process of negotiating international trade agreements. It seems rather blatant to create a position whose role is pretty clearly designed solely to serve Hollywood’s interests at the expense of the public. Senator Hatch is making it clear who he serves, and it’s not the public. To be so explicit, and to state directly in the bill that the role of this job is to “advocate on behalf of… intellectual property interests” is incredible. Congress shouldn’t be in the role of picking winners and losers, but Hatch has decided to write into the law that only one particular industry must win, even if it is obsolete.

As Upton Sinclair once famously wrote: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” On this point, Hatch’s proposal is clear: question the assumption that “vigorous” copyright and patent enforcement may be at odds with innovation, or that the public interest should supercede industry interest, and you’re out of a job. Appointing a representative for the industries dedicated to “strong” copyright and patent laws all but guarantees that U.S. trade policy will reflect the industry-friendly regulations that representative is paid to promote, regardless of whether they are in the public interest.

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Comments on “Senator Hatch's Plan To Give Hollywood The Key Seat At The Table For All Future Trade Negotiations”

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DannyB (profile) says:

How much international trade does Hollywood actually do?

Doesn’t Hollywood actually try to restrict its product internationally? Region codes. Release windows. Etc.

How much trade does Hollywood actually do compared to real, tangible products? (When answering: please ignore all of those massively huge container ships and the large number of ports they dock at.)

What does trade and movement of physical products, like mp3 players and bananas have to do with with the traffic of ones and zeros flowing through cables?

out_of_the_blue says:

You mean "Senator Fido", Mike? -- At least you learned that lesson.

Or so appears. Calling excessively vain people by childish names just never pays.

Now, Hollywood’s “legacy” industry is pretty much a fixture, and its products are a valuable trade item, in some areas more “valuable” than material goods, so appears to advantage just about everyone in the US if we can get other countries to exchange real goods for mere data at exorbitant rates. — NOT that I’m FOR such trade as compared to exchanging real goods. I’m for making real stuff, not fantasies. — But in practical terms, gouging for content is at worst a wash for the US public.

This is just part of you being against “intellectual properties” entirely, and wanting to let grifters monetize them for totally unearned income. — I say that fair trade requires the income go to those who produced it. Not rocket science, Mike, just basic economics: if you labor to produce, you deserve ALL of the rewards.

As to the excessive power that you claim Hollywood has: WELL, it’s no advance to replace one set of oligarchs with new ones. You as always tacitly assert here that “teh internets” upstarts should be favored over legacy industries, and that’s a HUGE flaw with your notions. — YOU need to be consistently against corporate power wherever it is, Mike, NOT picking winners and making losers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You mean "Senator Fido", Mike? -- At least you learned that lesson.

“Not rocket science, Mike, just basic economics: if you labor to produce, you deserve ALL of the rewards.”

Tell that to my boss.

For some WEIRD reason, he doesn’t want to give me 100% of the money made on the software that I developed.

I tried telling him “Dude! It’s not rocket science. I made it, so I get all of the cake.”. tl;dr version: he didn’t agree.

Incidentally, are you aware of any job opening for a software developer?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You mean "Senator Fido", Mike? -- At least you learned that lesson.

“Not rocket science, Mike, just basic economics: if you labor to produce, you deserve ALL of the rewards.”

Really, boy?
How much does Steve Ditko get for Spider-Man movies, animated series, merchandise, and comic books.
Answer: Bupkiss!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You mean "Senator Fido", Mike? -- At least you learned that lesson.

“This is just part of you being against “intellectual properties” entirely, and wanting to let grifters monetize them for totally unearned income.”

Like Disney, who had NOTHING to do with the creation of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Marvel Comics, boy?

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Copyright clause

Mike, you (rightfully) mention the copyright clause and how it’s supposed to benefit the public. But I think you forget to mention the mere fact of its existence makes it interesting. The founding fathers knew all about government granted monopolies (cf. Boston Tea Party and the East India Company). I don’t think they liked the idea of government granted monopolies. The constitution, as far as I can tell, doesn’t grant the federal government the ability to grant monopolies with the only exception being the copyright clause. It’s very existence shows how reticent the founding fathers were to having government granted monopolies.

That only emphasizes that much more how important the “promote the Progress” and “limited Times” parts of the clause are. If the founders were fine with government granted monopolies, they would never have put in a clause explicitly allowing them. That explicitness indicates that the government did NOT have the implicit allowance to do so. Thus heavy restrictions on patents and copyrights should be the norm. We should be very reticent to grant those monopolies, and only in the case where progress is being promoted, and only for a very limited time.

I’m not disagreeing. Quite the opposite. I don’t think you give that clause as much emphasis as it deserves.

Anonymous Coward says:

curious as to how much longer Congress and the usa entertainment industries think it will be before there is serious kick back and/or repercussions by other countries because what the USA wants is to protect and enhance it’s interests and own industries positions over and above those of the other countries and their citizens? sooner or later there is going to be a rebellion and it will all be because of the selfish and self interests of the USA. why should any country even consider doing something that is not in it’s own and it’s citizens best interests but ties it to enforced arrangements with a country that is only interested in what it wants? if the USA doesn’t back off, this wont end well, that’s for sure.

special-interesting (profile) says:

What do we need a Hollywood Zar for? Has corporate influence reached that deep into government? How about a Homeland Propaganda Zar instead which is at the level of the ridiculous culturally destructive claims made almost daily by Hollywood special interest groups.

Congressional weirdness seems to know no bounds. Another few filler pages to stuff into a bloated constitution. It might be like the Monty Python grotesquely fat man eating just one more chocolate truffle after a huge meal…

The computer is the new refrigerator and legacy media firms are only selling ice. Worse are the attempts to fetter the computer so that it only works with ice. (DRM) Do I care if they go out of business? Not even in the slightest. Hollywood has become an acronym for accounting fraud and other fakery both on and off the screen. It would be good to let go of such and not cry about it.

Healthy culture always will demand entertainment and in no way will Hollywood itself be missed. So much badness has emanated from the self supposed movie capital of the world that even if outlawed/banned tomorrow it will take years to ferret out the legal/legislation problems. The tabloids would not even slow down and the implosion of Hollywood would most likely give much to report on.

Hollywood seems more and more like the lands of Mordor with thousands of orcs and trolls doing their bidding/damage. What binds them all together is the one ring of (copyright) monopoly. The one all powerful economically demonic concept 100% universally recognized as evil. The darkness grows with tremors underfoot and fear spreads upon the land.

Converting copyright enforcement from civil to criminal law is like hoards of money sucking zombie lawyers stuffing the brains (at seminars and social gatherings no place is safe) of more lawyers with money thus creating more zombie/trolls crying insatiably for ever more victims to fleece cash from. This demonic conversion is not limited to lawyers but anyone can succumb to its siren call of legal plausibility. Especially JD and DoJ Hollywood zombie appointees.

Has copyright law been hijacked for political convenience enabled by Hollywood monopolies? In no way does US culture benefit from any of the proposed or existing Hollywood sponsored legislation. (sharing is caring!) Its seems popular for every agency to run about crying wolf like some out of control army of court jesters. Why create another court jester post?

It would be nice to actually adjourn for a few months (hahaha what a joke!) and let the senators out of the box for a bit. Capitol hill seems more like some mind numbing zone where only circus like performance survives.

The proper response to someone mentioning copyright as weak and useless would be; ?you can rot in hell thats ok with me (and your ice has melted).?

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