We noted that this was likely about a month ago, but IP-Watch is confirming that the USTR has bullied Japan, Canada, New Zealand and three other countries into agreeing that copyright terms must be life plus 70 years in the latest draft of the TPP agreement. This makes absolutely no sense, in part because even the head of the US copyright office has argued for the US to look at returning to the “life plus 50” baseline standard currently required by the Berne Agreement, and which those countries already abide by. Yet, here the USTR is rejecting that idea and saying that “life plus 70” will be required. That means that those countries will now have to jack up their copyright terms for absolutely no reason, even though it almost certainly harms the public for no benefit.
It’s not like these countries don’t know this is a bad idea. It’s been explained to them multiple times that even though the countries that have life plus 70 already are regretting it — and yet the USTR pushed for it anyway, and these countries backed down.
As we’ve noted for years, this is the really nefarious part of the agreements that the USTR negotiates. While this particular change won’t go against current US law, it makes copyright reform virtually impossible. That’s the real point of all this: by tying us up in “international obligations,” negotiated in backroom deals with no public input or review, the USTR is able to block Congress from having any meaningful chance at fixing the US’s broken copyright laws. Anyone who tries to put in place more sensible regimes will be told that they’re “violating international obligations” which will tie up the US government in things like those corporate sovereignty ISDS tribunals, in which merely fixing American copyright law will be seen as an unfair “appropriation” by the US government.
This is exactly the reason why these trade deals are being negotiated in this manner. It is not, as some will tell you, about knocking down trade barriers. There is nothing in the fact that Canada has a “life plus 50 regime” that is a “trade barrier” for the US. Sure, some will argue that things like James Bond going into the public domain in Canada is some sort of “trade barrier” with the US, but that’s ridiculous. It is no such thing. So why is the USTR doing this, other than to make sure folks employed at the USTR can get cushy jobs with copyright lobbying groups when they want to quadruple their salaries down the road?