The internet is still rejoicing after last week's win over ACTA. The European Parliament overwhelmingly voted down the treaty which effectively kills it for the time being. It will be back later, but the Internet can celebrate another win for now. While our friends in Europe our celebrating, the U.S. must still be on the offensive in regards to the ever elusive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
It's rare for us to get any kind of news in regards to TPP and even rarer for it come straight from the U.S. Trade Representative, but that's what happened last week. During the always secret TPP talks taking place in San Diego last week, the USTR introduced "New Copyright Exceptions and Limitations Provision" into the TPP text. Here's the statement from the USTR:
For the first time in any U.S. trade agreement, the United States is proposing a new provision, consistent with the internationally-recognized “3-step test," that will obligate Parties to seek to achieve an appropriate balance in their copyright systems in providing copyright exceptions and limitations for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. These principles are critical aspects of the U.S. copyright system, and appear in both our law and jurisprudence. The balance sought by the U.S. TPP proposal recognizes and promotes respect for the important interests of individuals, businesses, and institutions who rely on appropriate exceptions and limitations in the TPP region.
So why is this such a big deal? The introduction of the Berne three-step test to TPP makes the copyright section at least appear desirable The three-step test allows people to use copyrighted works in cases of criticism, parody, education, etc all under the banner of fair use.
So is TPP fine after this? Not by a long shot, but it proves that the USTR is at least attentive to recent happenings around the world. The death of ACTA may have had a hand in this recent change as those involved in the treaty do not want massive protests on the level of what we saw in Europe.
While the introduction of the three-step test is a start, many civil liberties organizations feel that it is not enough. A joint statement from EFF, Knowledge Ecology International, Public Knowledge and Public Citizen said that the still secret provision could actually "restrict fair use and other copyright exceptions and limitations crucial for the progress and access of culture, science, education and innovation."
Their fears are justified as the USTR only said that they would be introducing the three-step test. It's not in the bill yet and those involved in the negotiations (i.e. Hollywood) might shoot down the provision. They could also pass it in name only, while keeping the draconian copyright statutes that we've seen in previous leaks.
We'll keep you updated on any more changes to TPP over the coming months. The recent interest in TPP from a Congress that's angry over their being left out of the negotiations could prove interesting as we head into the election season.