EFF: TPP's Copyright Trap

Posted by Soledad Vega on Wed, 07/22/2015 - 11:12

As the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations round their final curve, we need to prevent another round of global copyright term extensions that could harm innovation and creativity online. 
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Article by Parker Higgins for EFF

Few arguments around copyright are as self-evidently fact-free as the length of its term. Defying economic reasoning, the astonishingly long period of restrictions has only grown over the years, and frequently the newer, longer terms have been retroactively applied to earlier works. The argument against term extension, and retroactive term extension in particular, is so obvious that the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman reportedly agreed to sign a Supreme Court brief opposing the most recent extension only on the condition that it used the word “no-brainer.”

And yet, copyright term extensions seem to work as a one-way ratchet, increasing every few decades in one country or region, and then getting “harmonized” around the world to match the new maximum. In recent years, those extensions can even be tied to the copyright term of the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoons—a connection that appropriately highlights the role of major corporate lobbying.

But it's not just the Mickey Mouses of the world that get caught in the perpetual extension machine. Our ability to freely build on the most popular media of the generations before us is an important casualty, but it's not the worst one. In its thirst for ever-longer terms, the copyright lobby has jeopardized a century of culture, including a huge number of works that have been “orphaned”—their copyright status is unclear, or the rights holder is impossible to locate, so they cannot be freely archived, built on, or shared.

We've lost a few important battles on copyright term extension in the past—we describe some of these below. But the chance to prevent another round of global copyright term extensions has come around again, as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations round their final curve. That's why we're pulling out all the stops to ensure that this time around, the U.S. fails in its attempt to enshrine longer copyright terms around the Pacific rim. It's an ambitious plan, but if we're able to do it, it could spell the end for the copyright ratchet for good.

- Read more at EFF