As negotiators converge on Ottawa to resume talks over updating the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), content interests have barraged U.S. trade officials with letters demanding that the U.S. Government abandon critical balancing mechanisms in the agreement’s copyright chapter, regarding fair use and safe harbors for Internet services.
How these issues are resolved is critical, since it will affect Internet and technology industries’ support for the IP chapter of the agreement, and potentially NAFTA itself.
There are two major moving parts here: (1) whether USTR undermines well-established safe harbors for online intermediaries, and (2) whether USTR abandons the policy of promoting balanced copyright in free trade agreements.
As previously noted here, acceding to Hollywood and recording industry demands would break with existing U.S. law, and Congressional direction in trade promotion legislation. This would also walk back priorities that were laid out by USTR itself earlier this year. Nevertheless, some in the entertainment industry are urging U.S. negotiators to do exactly that, at the risk of crossing red lines for Congress, negotiating partners, and various U.S. stakeholders.