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“Free-trade” pacts export U.S. copyright controls

Who needs ACTA, when other trade agreements are also exporting the draconian US DMCA-type copyright provisions to other countries? See Declan McCullagh’s CNET column, excerpted below:

Free-trade pacts export U.S. copyright controls


by October 14, 2011 3:01 PM PDT


President Barack Obama and President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea at the White House this week.President Barack Obama and President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea at the White House this week.

(Credit: White House)

President Obama called the approval of free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea this week “a major win for American workers.”

What he didn’t add is that the deals, which were given final approval on Wednesday by the U.S. Congress, are also a major win for the motion picture industry and other large U.S. copyright holders. Other portions specify that consumers can have their choice of computer software, but “subject to the needs of law enforcement.”

You won’t find this highlighted on the administration’s Web site (really, Web sites), but the three free-trade agreements export some of the more controversial sections of U.S. copyright law.

One chapter of the complex agreements echoes the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which the U.S. enacted in 1998 over the objections of librarians and computer scientists. It’s been used to threaten college professors, stymie research into HP security vulnerabilities, and jail a Russian programmer who created an e-book conversion utility.

Now Colombia, Panama, and South Korea will be required to prohibit circumventing any “technological measure that controls access to a protected work”–meaning that making a backup copy of a DVD or video game will become illegal, and, depending on the details, a crime as well.

The language of Chapter 18 (PDF), the intellectual property section, does not include the limited safeguards that Americans enjoy. The U.S. DMCA, for instance, allows the U.S. Copyright Office to consider the state of computer technology and create exceptions, a requirement that is not exported to the signatories.

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To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.