The following entry is authored by our Summer Legal Intern, Joan Blazich, a rising 3L at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Joan has a PhD in music and previously was a member of the North Carolina Symphony.
As the next round of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations convenes in San Diego next week, the internet is buzzing about what the trade agreement will and wont do. As usual, some of it is accurate, but some of it is not.
Before we address the misinformation, it is important to understand what the TPP is, and why it is important. Announced on November 12, 2011, the TPP is a trade agreement between eleven countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico and the United States) that seeks to enhance trade and investment between those nations. The TPP also contains provisions that call for protecting intellectual property rights of each member nation’s citizens. It is these IP provisions that have generated the most misinformation – or myths – on the web.
The TPP is a typical U.S. trade agreement in that it “recycles” provisions found in earlier trade agreements between the U.S. and other countries. Most of these provisions come from the Berne Convention and the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Copyright and Performances and Phonograms (audio recordings) treaties. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which the U.S. implemented in 1988, seeks to create an international understanding of copyright. The WIPO treaties, enacted in 1996, follow Berne by focusing on creating and enforcing an international “level playing field” for all copyright holders. In addition, WIPO offers enhanced guidance for protecting copyright in an increasingly international, technologically-driven marketplace. A third prominent treaty reflected in the TPP is TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights), which encapsulates elements of Berne and WIPO in pushing for a truly equal international copyright arena. The end result of these international IP treaties is to encourage reciprocity between countries in protecting each member nation’s copyright holders.
As an international trade agreement which includes provisions on IP, the TPP essentially copies verbatim large sections of material from both of the WIPO treaties. Perhaps the most important language in the TPP occurs in its preamble, as it clearly states that the countries participating in the TPP are also subject to a number of prior international treaties and trade agreements including Berne, TRIPS, and WIPO. This preamble also states that member countries are to treat copyright holders of other countries equally with their own nationals, and that enactment of the TPP will not apply to copyright actions enacted prior to acceptance of the TPP.
In sum, the TPP, like previous U.S. trade agreements, is a standard trade agreement which has adopted large amounts of material from prior trade agreements. These prior agreements have changed little, if anything, about U.S. copyright law, so U.S. copyright holders should feel secure in continuing to rely on current U.S. copyright law.
Despite this fact, there is a significant amount of misinformation on the internet that is generating vocal opposition to the TPP. Over the next several days we will address those myths here on our blog. Stay tuned…