US Pressured Japan, Canada, New Zealand And Others Into Extending Copyright

from the total-failure dept

We noted that this was likely about a month ago, but IP-Watch is confirming that the USTR has bullied Japan, Canada, New Zealand and three other countries into agreeing that copyright terms must be life plus 70 years in the latest draft of the TPP agreement. This makes absolutely no sense, in part because even the head of the US copyright office has argued for the US to look at returning to the "life plus 50" baseline standard currently required by the Berne Agreement, and which those countries already abide by. Yet, here the USTR is rejecting that idea and saying that "life plus 70" will be required. That means that those countries will now have to jack up their copyright terms for absolutely no reason, even though it almost certainly harms the public for no benefit.

It's not like these countries don't know this is a bad idea. It's been explained to them multiple times that even though the countries that have life plus 70 already are regretting it -- and yet the USTR pushed for it anyway, and these countries backed down.

As we've noted for years, this is the really nefarious part of the agreements that the USTR negotiates. While this particular change won't go against current US law, it makes copyright reform virtually impossible. That's the real point of all this: by tying us up in "international obligations," negotiated in backroom deals with no public input or review, the USTR is able to block Congress from having any meaningful chance at fixing the US's broken copyright laws. Anyone who tries to put in place more sensible regimes will be told that they're "violating international obligations" which will tie up the US government in things like those corporate sovereignty ISDS tribunals, in which merely fixing American copyright law will be seen as an unfair "appropriation" by the US government.

This is exactly the reason why these trade deals are being negotiated in this manner. It is not, as some will tell you, about knocking down trade barriers. There is nothing in the fact that Canada has a "life plus 50 regime" that is a "trade barrier" for the US. Sure, some will argue that things like James Bond going into the public domain in Canada is some sort of "trade barrier" with the US, but that's ridiculous. It is no such thing. So why is the USTR doing this, other than to make sure folks employed at the USTR can get cushy jobs with copyright lobbying groups when they want to quadruple their salaries down the road?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 10:09am

    Even life plus 50 is way too long. We need to return to fixed copyright terms such as 28 years (14 years renewable for another 14). That's more than enough to promote the progress of the arts, especially in the digital era. A constitutional amendment would be the best approach, as the US constitution trumps international law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 2:25pm

      Re:

      A lot of concepts in copyright has been lacking a proper research to back it up. In this case life +x has been relatively well established by research to be superior. On the other hand, the x has been creeping up with little to no reasoning. Life plus 10 to 30 years seems to be the buffer with some reasoning behind it (Organized crime killing creators to force public domain). TRIPS, with 30 years is already pushing copyright a bit far.
      Anything beyond that is very questionable, including WIPOs berne convention. That several countries have chosen 70 years or 100 years is just a sign of morally questionable politicians.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 4:01pm

        Re: Re:

        In this case life +x has been relatively well established by research to be superior.

        Three things:
        1. Which research papers?
        2. Who did the research, and/or who paid for it?
        3. Who exactly is benefiting from life+X duration according to this research, because it's certainly not the public.

        Life plus 10 to 30 years seems to be the buffer with some reasoning behind it (Organized crime killing creators to force public domain).

        If that's the reasoning of why life+any amount of time whatsoever is 'reasonable', you need to look for a better example. Murder is already quite illegal, and I find it rather difficult to picture someone being murdered just so that their song/story/artwork enters the public domain earlier.

        "Right, now that we've gotten rid of [Creator X], just 10 more years, assuming none of us go to jail for murder, and we'll be able to make a killing once their works enter the public domain and... everyone can copy all of it freely... we did not think this through."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Pragmatic, 26 Mar 2015 @ 6:51am

        Re: Re:

        Organized crime killing creators to force public domain

        Citation?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 10:18am

    Perhaps it's time for Wikipedia, Google, etc. to go dark again?

    Between the IP extension stuff and the sovereignty stuff, it's time to kill TPP & TTIP once & for all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    limbodog (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 10:23am

    Remember, the goal is to improve the public culture

    Copyright is supposed to be a limited protection in order to promote cultural development. If created items are never allowed to enter the public domain until anyone who might remember them has long ago died, then there's no question we're missing the mark.

    A short copyright protection is sensible. One that is "X number of years, or life, whichever comes second" is pushing the outer limits of a copyright law that does what it's supposed to do. But it's still within reason.

    Current law is a travesty, and for us to be pushing it on other countries who doesn't yet have this particular travesty, that's just worse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 10:23am

    So why is the USTR doing this, other than to make sure folks employed at the USTR can get cushy jobs with copyright lobbying groups when they want to quadruple their salaries down the road?

    I'd say the most honest and accurate answer along your "other than" reason is: because they can and because they don't give a small shit for what the public thinks because there's no accountability and no pressure to change their behavior.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 10:23am

    Why stop at life plus 70? Why not just straight out a million year copyright term?

    They're both effectively forever for everyone alive today. With a million year copyright term the rights holders won't even have to waste time and money lobbying for even longer copyright terms.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 10:31am

      Re:

      "Why stop at life plus 70? Why not just straight out a million year copyright term?"

      The copyright maximalists are "boiling the frog".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 10:41am

      Re:

      Oh but the will still lobby for even more longer terms as any length is still way too short for the eternal and ever lasting copyright term length that they will sell the souls of everyone just to get those eternal and ever lasting copyright length term that they so want.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2015 @ 5:46pm

      Re:

      With a million year copyright term the rights holders won't even have to waste time and money lobbying for even longer copyright terms.

      A million years, eh? Sounds like Scientology got their alien fingers in on the deal.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 10:30am

    Why hasn't the copyright extension laws been declared ...

    unconstitutional?

    After all, the constitution does have a prohibition upon making ex post facto laws, and the copyright extension laws do retroactively extend the copyright upon works that have already been created prior to the copyright being extended. In other words, allow the changed in duration of copyright, BUT DON'T MAKE THE EXTENSION RETROACTIVE TO PREEXISTING WORKS. When the work is made concrete, the copyright protection for that work is limited to the copyright law in effect at the time of creation of that work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 12:59pm

      Re: Why hasn't the copyright extension laws been declared ...

      Why? Because "international commitments" and "we've done it before". That's according to SCOTUS.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 11:00am

    I bet it really wasn't the US that did it

    I bet it wasn't "the US" but a teeny tiny group of profoundly greedy people with their own vulgar interests, contrary to the public interest, who pressured Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Others.

    Interesting that such a tiny, self interested group could have such power.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 1:46pm

      Re: I bet it really wasn't the US that did it

      You're right, it's not the US, it's globalists.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Seegras (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 2:18pm

        Re: Re: I bet it really wasn't the US that did it

        it's not "globalists". There is nothing "globalist" in exporting monopoly laws.

        The word you're looking for is "mercantilists".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 11:14am

    Add another entry to the list

    Yet another great reason why these 'trade' agreements need to die, entirely. Don't just try and trim out the worst bits, the entire things are rotten through and through, and it needs to be made abundantly clear that any 'agreement' made behind closed doors is not acceptable.

    If it affects the public, and is supposedly being negotiated on their behalf, then the public has a right to know the details of it, end of story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 11:41am

    Do they really not understand pushing for things like this breeds utter contempt for copyright in general?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 11:58am

    i think most readers would already have guessed that. the real questions are what was the pressure used and why did these nations take note rather than taking care of their own citizens? did they think that if they disagreed with the USA, they would be nuked? maybe even worse, and not spoken to ever again! oh, sorry, every nation on the planet prays for that but so far none have been lucky enough to have it happen, unless of course the news has received greater security that even the Guardian didn't know about it!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Binko Barnes (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 12:01pm

    Random author writes a book when he's 20 years old. Then he lives until he is 80. Copyright on the book lasts for a totally insane 130 years!

    It's all driven by corporate greed. Corporations by nature will always work relentlessly to extend their rights and privileges. And everybody at high level at the USTR and the Copyright Office are either heading to or from corporate jobs and are completely steeped in the culture of copyright maximalism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 12:23pm

      Re:

      Corporations are people too, my friend.

      Be thankful that Disney Corporation isn't insisting that its creations ("created" from the Brothers Grimm, A. A. Milne, Japanese anime and other sources) aren't protected for the life of the corporation plus 70 years.

      Yet.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2015 @ 5:48pm

        Re: Re:

        Just wait until Roma and Mark put a big ol' © symbol on the Bible.

        Islamists already have an enforceable "thou shalt not reproduce the likeness of the Prophet" injunction against Charlie Hebdo and Comedy Central.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lurker Keith, 25 Mar 2015 @ 12:33pm

    Optimistically

    Maybe (but probably not) Japan, Canada & New Zealand have decided not to adopt TPP, & thus don't care what the Copyright Provisions says?

    I know, snowball's chance & all that...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 1:11pm

    The answer for congress is simple and clear. They need to vote "no" on any of these treaties that contain one or more of these poison pills (IP extension, ISDS, etc), no matter what is in the other parts of the treaties. Will they have the courage to do so? I'm not exactly holding my breath.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Seegras (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 2:19pm

    Berne Convention

    That "life plus 50 regime" wasn't initially in the Berne Convention, it was added in 1908.

    So we can just as easy make another revision and throw it out again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 2:34pm

    Trade barrier

    Sure, some will argue that things like James Bond going into the public domain in Canada is some sort of "trade barrier" with the US
    As a Canadian, I cannot sell my perfectly legal James Bond stories to Americans. It sounds like a trade barrier to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 3:18pm

    There's a reason

    It's not for "no reason". It's for Mickey Mouse reasons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 5:58pm

    I think it's funny how the local shills insist things like this:

    Keep in mind that the current copyright terms in the US conform to the maximum allowed under international treaties to which the US is a party. Future extensions under US law, if any, would require convincing treaty parties that a longer term is appropriate, amending the treaties, and then enacting enabling legislation in the US. Much, much easier said than done.

    Why "convince" when you can pressure? It's business as usual. That the shills think they can paint themselves as the victims of this con job is hilarious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2015 @ 7:30pm

    Colorado TPP cheerleading squad getting fired up

    Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) is a TPP proponent whose reaction to his constituents' concerns so far seems to be mainly wordcraft intended to sell people on the idea that the TPP is full of sunshine and roses. Supposedly he has said he won't vote against any trade agreement.

    He just announced this:
    I hope you'll be able to join me at CU Boulder on Monday for a forum on our nation's trade agenda and how it affects small businesses, wages, and job opportunities in our community.

    As you may know, the Obama administration is currently deep in negotiations with 11 other nations -- Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan -- over a broad new trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This event is a great opportunity to learn more about the TPP's potential impact in areas like workers' rights, job creation, and environmental protections.

    I'll be hosting and moderating a panel that includes Australian Ambassador Kim Beazley; Ken Peres, Ph.D., the Chief Economist with the Communications Workers of America; and representatives from the U.S. Trade Representative's Office, the U.S. Export Council, and our district's small business community.

    Trade Forum Hosted and Moderated by Representative Jared Polis
    Monday, March 30th
    5:30 - 7:00 p.m.
    CU Boulder Humanities Rm. 250

    We are expecting high interest in this event. Registration is required. Please use this form to register.

    Carefully crafted trade deals can boost our economy, create jobs, and open up international markets to Made-in-America products, but any agreement must uphold our country's strong environmental and labor protections. That's why I've repeatedly written to President Obama and the U.S. Trade Representative to make sure any deal in which we participate includes these critical protections. For more information, I encourage you to visit the Trade Policy Action Center on my website, or to reach out to me or my staff directly.

    Even if you can't make it on Monday, I'm eager to hear about your ideas and concerns. You can email me any time, call one of my offices, or send me a note through Facebook or Twitter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 26 Mar 2015 @ 1:42am

      Re: Colorado TPP cheerleading squad getting fired up

      That's why I've repeatedly written to President Obama and the U.S. Trade Representative to make sure any deal in which we participate includes these critical protections.

      Given that claim, I certainly hope those attending make sure to ask if he supports Fast Track Authority, given approving FTA would completely take the matter completely out of his hands.

      Either they approve everything, no matter how many rotten spots(though I'm betting the rotten spots will be the vast majority of the 'trade' agreement), or shoot it down entirely, and there is going to be massive pressure on them from the WH to pass it I'm sure.

      I hope you'll be able to join me at CU Boulder on Monday for a forum on our nation's trade agenda and how it affects small businesses, wages, and job opportunities in our community.

      Bringing stats from the previous 'trade' agreements, what they were projected to achieve, and what they actually achieved, would be handy, though extremely unwelcome I'm sure.

      This event is a great opportunity to learn more about the TPP's potential impact in areas like workers' rights, job creation, and environmental protections.

      Oh those are easy, they eliminate them if it threatens corporate profits, moves them over-seas, and eliminates them if they threaten corporate profits respectively, though I'm sure they'll be lying through their teeth and pretending that TPP will create billions of jobs every week(because if you're going to lie, badly, why not go big?), gives every worker a raise to a million dollars an hour, and has environmental protections so strong that they'll bring back endangered species.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 26 Mar 2015 @ 3:08am

    50 years should be enough

    If an artist has not managed to collect the funds for his reanimation 50 years after his death, chances are negligible that another 20 years of collection will increase the funds sufficiently to countermand another 20 years of decomposition. 20 more years will not increase the chances of him ultimately contributing further to art and culture. Worse: if we stipulate that talent is partly hereditary and partly contagious, a great artist will throw several heir generations into idling and fund management mode until genetic disposition and personal inspiration have dissipated.

    Pay the composers, not the decomposers!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2015 @ 5:51pm

      Re: 50 years should be enough

      And what if said creator doesn't leave any heirs?

      I'm no Oprah fan but I fail to see who exactly gets the "generational royalties" of any of the films she's produced if she never had any kids.

      Tesla never had kids either. But then, all his work are belong to the estate of Edison...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2015 @ 8:48pm

    Peoples Republic

    The People's Republic of China would like to thank the USTR for crippling our competition. Your check is in the mail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    R, 27 Mar 2015 @ 6:20pm

    Cf. EU

    This seems like a direct response to the EU, where the Pirate Party MEP is pushing for standardizing on the minimum required by the Berne convention.

    My guess is that the US is then going to turn around and argue that because the TPP requires life + 70, that's what they should be harmonizing on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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