TPP Treaty May Have Unintended Consequences for Fair Use

If press reports are to be believed — and their increasing number and frequency suggests they should be — the Administration is cooking up some unpleasant surprises in its tightly held (some would say secretive) discussions around the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Reportedly, a potential TPP treaty will significantly impact our copyright laws.

Like many trade agreements, TPP has been conducted almost entirely in secret. That’s the nature of such things.  This fact alone really bugs me.

It also bugs me that the Administration seeks to have this treaty fast-tracked when it’s ready to sign. Under fast-track authority, Congress would have very little actual authority over the treaty. No amendments. Limited debate. Straight up-or-down vote by a simple majority. This is in direct contrast to normal treaty advice and consent which requires a ⅔ majority of the Senate.

By all accounts, this particular treaty contains a number of potentially objectionable provisions on intellectual property which should at least be debated.  It is reported that proposed provisions would:

  • increase the liability of Internet intermediaries

  • greatly regulate temporary copies of copyrighted works

  • extend by decades the duration of copyright coverage

  • add further restrictions to the “fair use” doctrine’s definition

  • increase protections for materials secured with so-called “digital locks”

It may seem that for IP holders, these could be good things, but, fact is, the scope of fair use is getting smaller by the day.  This isn’t good for anybody.  What is important is that we have clear rules to ensure some sort of predictability.   A restrictive treaty would handcuff Congress’ ability to legislate balance in this important area.

I’m opposed to fast-tracking the TPP. This potential treaty needs a complete fresh-air hearing and open debate.

WikiLeaks of the IP portion of the TPP is at

Good piece on the IP issues of TPP is at the EFF site