Well, it’s been a fun week on the international trade agreement front. Monday began yet another negotiating round for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, this time in San Diego. To the amazement of everyone, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced on July 3 it would now include a provision in the intellectual property (IP) chapter recognizing the importance of “limitations and exceptions” to copyright and embracing the international 3-part test for what constitutes suitable limitations and exceptions. (For those not familiar with this term of art, “limitations and exceptions” are things like Fair Use and and First Sale Doctrine in the United States. As the name implies, limitations and exceptions to copyright limit the rights of the copyright holder and create exceptions to the general rule against copying without permission.)
It is difficult to convey to people who don’t routinely deal with USTR and the copyright maximalists that dominate trade negotiations just how stunning a turn around this is, given the fairly well-established limitations and exceptions in U.S. law and the fact that — as USTR acknowledged in its announcement — the three-part test for what constitutes suitable limitations and exceptions is already well-established and incorporated into international law. Indeed, given all this, the incredible thing is that this is, as USTR acknowledges, the first time USTR has included any explicit reference to limitations and exceptions. In addition, as my colleague Rashmi Rangnath points out over at the Public Knowledge blog, while this is a positive step for USTR, we have not seen the new draft TPP text, so the actual implementation of these principles in the TPP draft could still be a major step backward from existing U.S. law.
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