Potential NAFTA Delay Spells Copyright Relief for Now

Just months ago, commentators seem to be sure that NAFTA was on the verge of completion. Now, recent political rhetoric is casting doubt on that.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is close to the finish line. Just a meeting or two away and it’ll be a done deal. Negotiators are hoping to complete NAFTA before a series of scheduled elections take place. Some of that may ring a bell for those who are following the NAFTA negotiations. One example that we are able to locate features a timeline where there was the possibility that it would be concluded by the end of the year.

That was back in 2017.

Long time observers in international politics know that if there is one sure thing about international trade agreements, its that they will be delayed. They will be delayed a lot. Then they will be delayed some more. Deadlines will be set and negotiations will blow straight past them. It happened with ACTA, CETA, and TPP. Little reason to believe that it won’t happen with NAFTA too.

Well, looking at reports today, the future of NAFTA might even be in doubt for some observers. Not only has US President Donald Trump said that he is leaning towards separate trade agreements between Canada and Mexico, but he is also sparking an all out trade war with many key allies including Canada and Mexico. Canada has already said that they will challenge the tariffs at the World Trade Organization.

Of course, seemingly lost in the debates surrounding NAFTA is the digital rights crackdown that was buried in the NAFTA negotiations. As we reported last year, the so-called “Copyright Alliance” demanded that NAFTA includes provisions like extending the length of copyright to life plus 70 years, tough anti-circumvention laws, and compelling ISPs to enforce copyright laws (a three strikes law could be an example of that).

Meanwhile, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) made their own list of demands. This includes provisions that would stymie open source projects, holding services like search engines liable for copyright infringement their users undertake, shutting down services that allow users to upload content, multi-million dollar damage awards for non-commercial infringement, and closing off fair use provisions.

Finally, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) issued their own set of demands, saying that they want notice-and-staydown provisions and internet censorship among other things.

In response, the Trump administration pretty much put all of these demands into a checklist and told digital rights advocates to pound sand. As such, he basically demanded a digital rights crackdown at the negotiating table.

It’s unclear where the digital rights provisions stand at this point. Still, one can’t help but point out that these latest delays put all of American copyright lobby efforts in jeopardy. If NAFTA falls through, so do these provisions. As such, delays or risk of negotiations collapsing winds up being great news for those who concern themselves with digital rights. Can’t have a NAFTA digital rights crackdown without NAFTA, can we?

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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