Spreading the Message: U.S. Copyright Compliance Goes Global


If you liked NAFTA, you’re going to love the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It contains some very serious provisions for international copyright. Who knew copyright laws could be so exciting? But seriously, this trade agreement between Chile, Brunei, New Zealand, and Singapore, and eight other countries will be the first of its kind. While not all countries agree with the strict copyright compliance provisions, it’s seen as a major step toward the protection of intellectual property rights, based on a western perspective.

Why The TPP Is So Significant

The TPP is an important treaty because it expands U.S. copyright laws to the entire world. Before this treaty, individual countries could set their own copyright laws and guidelines, and each of these could vary between countries. For artists, it meant that releasing anything internationally was a dicey game between lawyers, governments, and content consumers.

With the treaty in place, it means that there are more uniform laws and regulations governing protected content. While the Berne Convention does provide some basic protections internationally, it does not harden copyright laws.

This treaty may represent a strong step forward in protection of intellectual property. However, its not without its critics. The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch has called for more open negotiations, stating that there is too much secrecy in some aspects of the process. President Obama has also taken flack for the secrecy policies on the TPP.

What This Means For International Copyright Protection

It’s believed that many Russians do not respect copyright laws. The situation is so dire there, that the Ministry of Culture is now threatening to punish piracy with fines up to $30,000 per occurrence. That doesn’t seem to be swaying some users, though.

And, it’s this type of defiance that the TPP aims to fight. While Russia is conspicuous by its absence, the treaty does include countries that are, for the most part, respectful of copyright laws: Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

What does this mean for P2P networks? Surprisingly, not much. Regardless of the country, these sites are amazingly well policed by communities of ordinary citizens. Moreover, sites that sell torrent-focused software spend a lot of time, and money, emphasizing copyright laws while discouraging illegal downloading. For example, Vuze bittorrent software is sold with the explicit understanding that the company respects copyright laws and discourages users from downloading illegal files.

With the TPP, notices like these become even more important, since site users cannot escape copyright laws of the U.S. by living in New Zealand or Chile, for example. Penalties for an illegal download can be enforced in countries where it may not have been enforced before, or where enforcement has been more lax.

Another aspect of the copyright protections contained in the TPP is the length of those protections. Under the treaty, a protected work would be protected for 95 years from the end of the calendar year of the first authorized publication of the work and then for 70 years after the death of the person who created it.

This streamlined approach to copyright protection is expected to empower internet service providers to effectively police users’ Internet activities, actively looking for violations. In some cases, the law will allow ISPs to block, filter, or spy on users’ to enforce copyright.

The Obama administration included parts of SOPA (the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act) in the new TPP treaty, effectively expanding SOPA across the ocean instead of limiting it to the U.S.

Finally, the TPP won’t ever be “finalized” in the sense that it’s closed to entry. Countries may join the union at any time.

Will This Increase Domestic and Cross-Border Copyright Infringement Cases?

There is some concern regarding potential copyright infringement cases that could become international legal battles. In fact, it’s expected that international cases will increase and will have more legal “teeth.” Take the case of Dow Jones & Co vs Real-Time Analysis & News Ltd, for example. Real-Time is a financial news aggregator service operating under its brand name Ransquawk.

Ransquawk was accused of illegally distributing content from Dow Jones without the publisher’s consent. Normally, there would be no legal case but, because of the treaty, Dow Jones can sue for justice. Or, take the case of the Associated Press vs Meltwater. The AP won on all arguments brought before the court – Meltwater was found guilty of illegally distributing the AP’s content to its own users while charging a fee for the service.

These shows the practicality of the treaty, and many companies may be more willing to pursue legal action knowing that there is remedy out there waiting for them.

Nancy Owen enjoyes keeping up with the latest changes in internet technologies and how they push the legal boundaries. She enjoys sharing her ideas and research through blogging.

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