Hollywood Using Trump To Undermine The Internet In NAFTA Talks

from the this-is-bad dept

As you may be aware, the US, Canada and Mexico are “renegotiating NAFTA” for reasons that don’t entirely make sense, but we’ll leave that aside. Either way, opening up that process has created an opportunity for Hollywood to attack the internet, and they’ve rushed right in. And, despite promises to the contrary, it appears that Hollywood may have succeeded in getting the Trump administration’s US Trade Representative to back its dangerous plans.

To fully explain this requires a bit of a history lesson. A few decades back, Hollywood realized that what it couldn’t get Congress to pass, it could force upon the US through “international trade agreements.” Much of the history of what happened is detailed in the excellent 2002 book, Information Feudalism by Peter Drahos and John Braithwaite. The very short version is this: international trade agreements have mostly been negotiated without much fanfare or attention, often in secret, with handshake deals in backrooms. And since “trade agreements” are about industry and commerce, trade negotiators often spend most of their time listening to industry representatives to figure out what they want, rather than looking at what’s best for everyone as a whole.

The legacy entertainment middlemen (very cleverly!) realized this long before many others did, and realized that if they could make copyright a “trade” issue, they could continually ratchet up the protectionist parts of copyright law. The plan involves a few clever components. First, find a few countries where they can convince local legislatures to pass ever more draconian copyright laws. Second, put pressure on trade negotiators to put similar provisions into trade agreements. Third, whine about countries (including the US) “failing to live up to the obligations of our international trade agreements” and forcing everyone to ratchet up their copyright laws to “comply.” Wash, rinse, repeat.

This is actually how the DMCA itself became law in the US (which is ironic as you’ll see in a moment). Hollywood tried to pass a DMCA-like law in the US in the mid-1990s and it failed. So, as the main architect of this plan publicly admitted a few years ago, they did “an end-run around Congress,” ran to Geneva, and got a new trade agreement — the WIPO Copyright Treaty — passed. And then they scurried right back to Congress, and said to meet the obligations of the WIPO Copyright Treaty, we needed the DMCA.

Since then, Hollywood has pushed for draconian copyright requirements in basically every trade agreement, and the USTR was only too happy to oblige. Ridiculously, the USTR, while pushing ever more draconian copyright law around the globe through trade agreements, has flatly refused to also include fair use or equivalent “safety valves” to keep the law from being abused. Of course, as we’ve discussed for years, these “safety valves” — generally called “limitations and exceptions” — are actually fundamental user rights. In short: the USTR has pushed for rights for big corporations, while refusing to include the necessary rights for the public. That’s a dangerous combination.

That brings us to the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation. Hollywood has been whining about the DMCA’s safe harbors quite a bit in the past few years (yes, the same safe harbors that are from the DMCA that it forced the US to pass via international trade agreements). So far, however, heavy lobbying by the RIAA and MPAA to do away with the DMCA’s safe harbors has failed to convince Congress (in part because Congress has seen through this game and, in part, because Congress still remembers what happened with its attempt to undermine the internet through copyright law with SOPA).

But, hey, with the reopening of NAFTA, Hollywood saw an opportunity, and has pushed for language that will undermine the DMCA’s safe harbors and fair use — things they can’t get through Congress alone. Unfortunately, the latest reports are that the USTR has agreed to support this move and, even though it’s been shown that more balanced copyright promotes trade, the US is now officially putting more draconian copyright on the agenda — a move that risks undermining the entire internet, not to mention a major backlash from internet users as well.

Needless to say, this is bad. Some in Congress are speaking up on this, but it’s falling along the traditional lines. Senator Ron Wyden has made it clear that he’s “deeply concerned” that the Trump administration is willing “to undermine the internet as a platform for speech, innovation and US jobs” with the NAFTA renegotiation. On the flip side, you have Orrin Hatch — a Senator so closely associated with giving the legacy entertainment industry everything it’s ever wanted, that he’s given the nickname “Senator Fido” (as in “lapdog”) in Rob Reid’s comic novel about the music industry. Hatch has spoken up in support of Hollywood, saying that while it’s fine to reopen the DMCA’s safe harbors, there should be no mention of fair use or any other user rights in these negotiations.

At this point, it appears that Canada is left pushing back on the US’s crazy Hollywood-inspired demands. Of course, Canada’s suggestions aren’t all wonderful either, but at least it’s pushing for a more balanced approach — one that actually recognizes the rights of the public and the importance of protecting free speech, while the USTR (pushed by Hollywood) seems to have decided to throw that right out the window.

Obviously, there are so many other things going on these days, that it’s easy to miss the background of “NAFTA 2.0” negotiations. But at this point, it appears that Trump’s USTR — at the urging of Hollywood — is trying to use these negotiations to do real damage to free speech and innovation online. Taking away the DMCA’s safe harbors and refusing to include important protections like fair use in any copyright language should be seen as a non-starter. As we’ve argued for years, copyright is best left out of trade agreements altogether, but if it does need to be in there, giving Hollywood it’s wishlist plan to destroy the internet shouldn’t be the USTR’s top priority.

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Comments on “Hollywood Using Trump To Undermine The Internet In NAFTA Talks”

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44 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

A perfect recipe for contempt

Hatch has spoken up in support of Hollywood, saying that while it’s fine to reopen the DMCA’s safe harbors, there should be no mention of fair use or any other user rights in these negotiations.

Disgusting, but not surprising. It’s been crystal clear for years/decades that copyright maximalists and those that they own consider the public to be sources of income and little else. A party that should have no say in copyright law and certainly not on anything that might impact profits, and who should feel grateful for any any ‘exceptions’ like fair use that are graciously given them(until they are ground into the dust).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A perfect recipe for contempt

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (as well as others like me): Take these idiots out the backdoor, into the street, and execute them. Do this enough times and they will stop. If they want to make money off of society, it’s society’s good will that will permit it. Nothing else. You want to fuck us all over? That good will goes away. It’s time to put these assholes in their place.

David says:

Hard to blame Trump

But at this point, it appears that Trump’s USTR — at the urging of Hollywood — is trying to use these negotiations to do real damage to free speech and innovation online.

That’s not really much different to Obama’s USTR. The best to be said about Obama is that you need to take something resembling a stand in order to be a push-over.

Trump cannot be bothered to show enough interest for that. The end result is pretty much the same, with pretty much the same driving interests.

David says:

Re: Re: Hard to blame Trump

It isn’t much about Trump either, so “Trump’s USTR” seems like more of moving on than warranted.

Basically it’s the same people who are to blame as before, even though different presidents are to blame for letting them carry on.

“Trump’s USTR” sounds like a solution would involve firing Trump when it’s really the USTR one needs to get fired here.

Of course, after doing that, the replacement would then likely indeed be “Trump’s USTR” and that’s unlikely to be an improvement. But so far, the problem is just the good old USTR, never mind whose.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Hard to blame Trump

It’s Trump’s administration. Play the blame game all you want, but Obama is out and can’t do jack shit and Trump is in and can. “Trump’s USTR” means Trump is president, can affect change and is responsible for not doing so. It means if the USTR needs to be fired, Trump is the one who needs to do so, if he isn’t doing so, it’s on him.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Hard to blame Trump

What do you think Donald Trump cares about most? I think it’s the business interests of the United States, which he equates with success as a person and now as a President.

He’s tried to makes moves that will, at least to his mind, improve the business possibilities of Americans, from day one. If you look at him running the country just like an extremely large business, most of the moves he’s made, whether people agree with him or not, make sense.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Hard to blame Trump

Yeah… he’s running the country like his own business, which means it’s for his own interests, hence the weekly trips to Mar-a-Lago. Hence the use of his own properties instead of Camp David to host foreign visitors. Lining his own pockets on your dime makes good business sense, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Hard to blame Trump

Just because the moves make sense for what I think his mindset is, doesn’t mean I think they’re good moves. There’s too many subtle issues he’ll end up completely steam-rolling over because he cannot understand them on a human condition level.

American business is honest-to-goodness dog-eat-dog tradition and damn you for saying it would ruin anybody or anything! /s

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Hard to blame Trump

Honestly I think Trump cares about his own fame and short term appearances.

You don’t give gifts to established players if you care about the business possibilities of americans.

No, if you look at him running the country like a business his moves certainly make no sense. Nothing he has done has made any sort of monetary profit for the country, or even seemed like he might be trying to do so which is the only goal in business. A business would not be interested in creating jobs as he claims he most wants to do. Jobs cost businesses money, a business wants efficiency. Cutting taxes as he claims to be doing is cutting your revenue stream which no business will ever do intentionally. All the immigration stuff doesn’t really make any sense if you look at it like he is running a business either.

I can see where you are coming from in regards to the NAFTA stuff (although I think he is grossly underestimating Canada’s ability and willingness to find other trade partners), but it really doesn’t apply to anything else he is doing.

David says:

Re: Re: Hard to blame Trump

Honestly? “And then he goes and does a 180” is again something I’d rather characterize Obama with than Trump. Trump goes off in so many directions at once that pinpointing “a 180” is not all that easy.

Obama’s been a Nobel Peace Prize sized disappointment, but I was scared silly of Trump already before he got elected.

It was much more obvious what parts of Trump’s propaganda were clearly lies to start with.

Anonymous Coward says:

been saying for years that the main aim of Hollywood and the entertainment industries is to take complete control of the Internet and i have always been shouted down. what the hell do people think is going to happen to the Internet once these demands come into force, as surely they will, because no one seems to have the balls or the intelligence to do anything about it! it took such a massive public outcry to stop SOPA, an outcry that shouldn’t have even been needed because SOPA and every ‘deal’ like it should never get off the ground. yet, once again, here we are with the USTR right in the forefront of doing what the entertainment industries demand! has anyone ever looked into what is being given by the industries to have their agenda continuously pushed? what are the heads of USTR getting? no one, surely, does this for no personal reason or reward and in particular when everything relating to fairness and the public is continuously ignored!
once they have this, then, as stated, there will be so much lost, even more than has been lost up til now, all to the the same industries and if no one can see or accept that the motivation behind what is happening is total control of what can/cant happen on the best distribution and information method invented to date, just to preserve a particular industry at the expense of everything else on the Planet, then you need to wake up and smell the coffee, because you wont even be able to do that soon, unless, of course, you’re prepared to pay the extortionate price that Hollywood is going to demand!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Okay, stop. Close your eyes. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Now open your eyes.

You’re not going to convince anyone of anything with a wall of text that is poorly paragraphed, littered with superfluous exclamation points, and boils down to “I told you so!”

Take a few breaths. Make your points emphatically but empathetically; provide context and supporting documentation from reliable sources; get someone to proofread it before you post. It will get frustrating, but if you put in the effort to draw people in, and are proven right in your predictions, people will remember what you’ve said without you having to gloat.

Frankly, right now you’re coming across as a paranoid conspiracy theorist. 6-line, 100-word run-on sentences with inconsistent capitalization and a dystopian tenor are going to do that. If you want people to take your warnings seriously, you’re going to have to make yourself look like someone to be taken seriously. The medium is the message, and all that, and again, the message that your medium sends is that you would fit in well with the flat-earthers, 9/11 truthers, and birthers.

You may be right, but what good is being right if no one takes you seriously enough to listen to your warnings?

Anonymous Coward says:

It's our fault

We keep demanding more and more entertainment product. Somehow we’re surprised when they start behaving badly when there’s not accountability, kind of like drug cartels. (Generally speaking, not specifically. Obviously the MPAA has never left anyone’s head in an ice chest.)

The only solution is to stop making it so damn important to ourselves to have constant, new, expensive entertainment. Go make something, go build something, go be productive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's our fault

You are wrong. The objective of the legacy publishers, labels and studios is to restore their position as the choosers and publishers of all content made available to the public. The reason that they are desperate to control the Internet is that the self publishers are eating into their market. The amount of new and legal content published to the Internet every day far exceeds the output of the legacy industries, and they fear that they will sink under that mass of publications.

NeghVar (profile) says:

Re: It's our fault

This is what I have been saying for about 15 years now. The big picture of big media’s crusade is to prevent artist from working directly with the consumer. Thus bypassing the publishers. The internet allows it and they seek to destroy it by whatever means necessary or gain full control of it.

And it is

The fault is ours, but it is not as you describe. We keep reelecting the same corrupt politicians every two or six years. Many say they are the only option on the ballad. Not true in all cases. Some have ballads have a “never heard of him/ her” type person listed on the ballads. But as elections come around again, we become these programmable drones to elect the familiar name. Then a month after the election we get pissed off at them again and the cycle continues.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's our fault

The fault is ours

Stopped reading right there.

You think it’s so easy to get rid of the corrupt idiots? GO DO IT THEN, and stop whining. When you finally figure out the corruption has spread so far and is so systemic at this point that no amount of voting will fix it, and that you have a completely apathetic public with the same mindset of "Got mine, F’ yours", I’ll be waiting for your rant of "We get what we deserve (with sarcastic doom and gloom)" to be posted.

You want to do something worth while? How about drumming up support for the cause on Facebook? Or yelling down a frantic fox news acolyte objecting to basic facts of reality? Coming to a place like techdirt to make this post is preaching to the choir.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some red state idiots to go yell at.

Anonymous Coward says:

The folly of Internet-driven commerce and community is this, and always will be:

The individual people, not the companies, make the real value.

The moment that regular Average Jo can no longer have a say, its value to the greater populace goes down drastically.

We know what the media wants, they’re everywhere already. It’s their stranglehold on narratives that makes us want the things they tell us we “shouldn’t”.

The Internet is the (relatively) free space where we escaped from the brick-walled prisons of modern media like TV, newspapers and radio.

I think the Internet also functions as a safety valve, too: it safely contains all the evils of humanity in their words and imaginations, and these people feel less compelled to act out on the streets as a result.

If regular people can’t have input on decisions like these, things will get ugly. Human culture and creativity will definitely suffer more, because it’s our nature to build on what has already been created.

ECA (profile) says:

BEFORE NAFTA...and after..

Lets see…
Before nafta, the USA gov. PAID corps to Jump to mexico to create jobs…to SLOW down the migrants..
Which gave the corps and Groups the ability to SIT OUT SIDE and take the money of the employees…

AFTER..
It became WORSE..
NO pollution controls, No corporate restriction on Wages or how much damage they can CAUSE to anther nation..and the ONLY RECOURSE Mexico has is NOT TO GOTO COURT..because the USA is backing the corps in another nation..

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