Embattled Trans-Pacific Trade Pact Good for Hollywood, Says Official

The Hollywood Sign - Getty - H 2016
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A senior Obama administration official visiting Los Angeles Monday extolled the benefits to the entertainment industry of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal recently signed by the U.S. that has taken a beating on the presidential campaign trail and is as yet unratified by Congress.

In a briefing for press, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman focused on the copyright and online services aspects of the Pacific Rim deal, which he said would benefit both Hollywood and the recording industry.

“Trade agreements are a mechanism for us to shape globalization and reflect our values,” said Froman. “We need to be the demander on these issues.”

Among its numerous provisions, the TPP would require member states to standardize copyright term lengths to a minimum of the life of the author plus 70 years; beef up copyright enforcement mechanisms; provide ISP “safe harbors” similar to those provided by U.S. notice and takedown law (the DMCA); support the free flow of data across borders; prohibit duties on digital products; prohibit applying certain common analog rules, such as national content quotas, to online services; and, in general, “create a common set of standards for th[e] region,” said Froman.

A number of those provisions have come under fire from copyright critics such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, while the presidential candidates have assailed the TPP’s potential effect on manufacturing jobs.

The agreement would have “no effect” on the practice of selling film rights on a territory by territory basis, said Jean Prewitt, president of the Independent Film & Television Alliance, at whose offices the briefing took place. She added that the copyright extension was justified by the increased useful life of films and the importance of sequel rights. Froman, who is meeting with IFTA members including Lionsgate and Nu Image during his time in L.A., pointed to such 1966 movies as The Sound of Music and Dr. Zhivago that will soon lose copyright protection in various countries absent the extension.

The MPAA and RIAA have also praised the deal.

But although the U.S. championed the pact, Froman, who holds ambassadorial rank, seemed to acknowledge that it faces tough sledding in Washington: asked whether Congress would ratify the TPP, Froman said simply, “there is a pathway forward,” and, in a nod to opposition by the Democratic and Republican frontrunners, added that ratification in practical terms would have to happen this year. Under special provisions, that requires 50 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House.

In addition to the U.S., the TPP signatory states are Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Notably absent is China, which is pushing a competing initiative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, that Froman said does not include vital IP and open internet protections.