Looking Beyond TPP: US & EU Planning More Bad IP Rules In 'US-EU Free Trade Agreement'

from the it-never-stops dept

Just a reminder: when you think you get past an attempt by certain legacy industries to shove through bad laws with questionable international trade agreements, there's always at least one (and probably more) such agreements lurking. So, from ACTA we went straight into TPP... and following TPP, it looks like the US and the EU are already discussing a new US-EU Free Trade Agreement to be worked out soon. A "working group" to get the process started put out a report about what the agreement would include... and, of course, there will be a section on "intellectual property." The USTR has made it clear over the past few years that it thinks free trade agreements are the perfect vehicle for intellectual property maximalism. This makes little sense, since intellectual property is the exact opposite of "free trade." It's whole purpose is to be a trade barrier and a monopoly. But...
Both the EU and the United States are committed to a high level of intellectual property protection, including enforcement, and cooperate extensively through the Transatlantic IPR Working Group. Both sides agree that it would not be feasible in negotiations to seek to reconcile across the board differences in the IPR obligations that each typically includes in its comprehensive trade agreements. Before the launch of any negotiations, both sides would further consult on possible approaches to deal with IPR matters in a mutually satisfactory manner.
So, at the very least, there would be some limits on what such an agreement would get into, given existing "differences," but they still seem to want to include something about "dealing with IPR matters," which can only mean ratcheting things up. It's still early, but you can bet that the legacy industry lobbyists are already well aware of this and involved in the process -- so it needs to be on everyone else's radar as well.

Oh, and both Obama and Romney have indicated they support such an agreement, so it's not like either one is better than the other going into next year.

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  1. icon
    jameshogg (profile), 30 Oct 2012 @ 5:59am

    IP law is a funny thing to truly revolt against, because everybody thinks that they need to support it in order to protect their potential at monopolised profits. But they don't stop and think that doing so makes them prisoners of their own actions because they deny themselves the right to derive from the works and discoveries of others, which is also just as huge a market. The fashion industry has achieved a state where the introduction of IP laws to this sector would seriously harm several jobs, companies, instate a culture of fear, etc (and I have read about some fools who regardless try and push for such legislation). The only real argument for IP is the free-rider problem, but it can be solved as long as you make conditions that prevent this problem from existing.

    It's the same argument for why we need to be strict on free speech and not police opinions of any kind, even hateful ones. Because once you allow policing based on something as slippery as subjective offensiveness, people will gradually erode what is meant by "offensive" until oppressors have the ability to shoot at anything that moves. The founding fathers of the U.S. got this spot on and threw in the separation of church and state to boot, another cornerstone of civilisation, but unfortunately did not have enough historical context to make the same call in regards to the "exclusive rights" clause. Can anyone picture these enlightened people putting this clause in if they even glanced at something as gigantic as the internet?

    I've said this before: arts and science (copyrights and patents) can be best expressed when you treat multimedia as a stage and not a market for selling dirt (where do you think the phrase "dirt-cheap" comes from?), and when you treat education as a social issue where everybody should contribute their fair share to humanity in regards to their relative fields, respectively. So crowdfunded virtual tickets and socialised R and D, in other words.

    Next time you bump into a copyright maximalist, ask the question "what evidence would disprove copyright?" If they fail to answer this question, dodge it, or try to insist through circular logic that copyright is the only way to achieve incentives, politely say that their claim must be weak if it is an unfalsifiable one. I am from a background that values skepticism and science quite highly: I can definitely say that this is the right approach to take.

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