Trade Promotion Authority that supports digital economic growth

Today, there are more artists, publishers, and authors creating more works for global audiences, on a growing number of platforms -- on YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Dailymotion, Tumblr, Medium, SoundCloud, Etsy, Vine, Pinterest and more.

These digital exchanges have become an increasingly important driver of the global economy. As a result, more open trade has the potential to give creators, online platforms and other businesses access to more consumers around the world. And Trade Promotion Authority -- which empowers U.S. officials to negotiate trade agreements subject to up or down votes in Congress -- presents an opportunity to modernize our trade strategy for the Internet era.

While U.S. trade agreements have historically included copyright provisions to protect right holders, the Internet’s success depends on both copyright protection and pro-innovation limitations and exceptions, such as fair use and safe harbors for online platforms. Without both, Internet platforms -- and the explosion of creativity and new distribution channels they have enabled -- would not be possible.

We tend to take this balanced approach for granted in the U.S. But without trade agreements reflecting that balance, there is a very real risk that the Internet’s most popular platforms -- like search engines, video sharing sites, and social networks -- could be hindered or even blocked in foreign markets on the basis of one-sided copyright principles. And that could hurt the overall U.S. economy; one study found that 1 in 8 U.S. jobs are tied to industries that rely on copyright limitations and exceptions.

We were glad that U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman last year committed to “asking our trading partners to secure robust balance in their copyright systems -- an unprecedented move that draws directly on U.S. copyright exceptions and limitations, including fair use.” That was a big step. 

And while it’s unfortunate that the Trade Promotion Authority legislation now being debated by Congress does not on its face fully reflect Ambassador Froman’s commitment, we’re happy that the bill’s authors made clear for the first time ever (in their accompanying report on the bill) that trade agreements should foster an appropriate balance, including copyright limitations and exceptions. It’s progress. We’re also glad to see other provisions to promote pro-innovation policies globally.

We hope Congress will approve Trade Promotion Authority, and urge trade officials to increasingly promote the balanced copyright policies abroad that have enabled great content and Internet platforms to thrive.