File sharers would be jailed under FTAA Treaty

By Jon Newton 10/22/03

Internet music swapping will be a felony throughout the Western Hemisphere in 2005 unless the second proposed clause to Article 4.1 from the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Treaty is deleted, says an IP Justice white paper released today.

Called FTAA: A Threat to Freedom and Free Trade and published by the international civil liberties group IP Justice, it analyzes key sections of the FTAA Treaty which will govern the lives of 800 million Americans in the Western Hemisphere in 2005.

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Similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the FTAA Treaty seeks to bind the 34 democracies in the Western Hemisphere (including the US) to a single trade agreement. It'll require all countries to change their domestic laws on a wide range of topics, including intellectual property rights.

"The draft intellectual property rights chapter in the FTAA Agreement vastly expands criminal procedures and penalties against intellectual property infringements throughout the Americas." states the report. "One clause would require countries to send non-commercial infringers such as Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharers to prison. It is estimated that 60 million Americans use file-sharing software in the US alone.

The proposed agreement forbids consumers from bypassing technical restrictions on their own CDs, DVDs and other property, similar to the odious US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

"Even though bills are pending in the US Congress to repeal the DMCA, FTAA proposes to outlaw even more speech and legitimate conduct," states IP Justice going on:

"Mislabeled as a 'free trade' agreement, the FTAA Agreement would actually make it illegal to bypass trade barriers such as DVD region code restrictions and it would enable price discrimination against consumers in the Americas.

"The draft treaty also imposes new definitions for 'fair use' and 'personal use,' curtailing traditional fair use and personal use rights to a single copy and only under limited circumstances. This prevents consumers from backing-up their media collections, using their media in new and innovative ways, and accessing media for educational and non-commercial purposes."

Another clause would require all countries to amend their copyright laws to extend copyright's term to at least 70 years after the life of the author, essentially forcing the new US standard on all other 33 countries in the hemisphere, says IP JUstice. Although forbidden by the US Constitution, FTAA's copyright section would allow companies to copyright facts and scientific data.

And ye another provision requires all domain name trademark disputes to be decided by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a private and unaccountable organization that is ill equipped to determine the limits of freedom of expression rights or the scope of intellectual property rights. Americans would no longer have access to their local
public courts to adjudicate rights over their Internet domain names.

"The FTAA Treaty's IP chapter reads like a 'wish list' for RIAA, MPAA, and Microsoft lobbyists," says IP Justice executive director Robin Gross. "Rather than promote competition and creativity, it is bloated with provisions that create monopolies over information and media devices," stated the intellectual property attorney.

IP Justice has also published an online petition calling on FTAA Trade Ministers to delete the entire chapter on intellectual property rights from the trade agreement.

FTAA Treaty negotiators, including the Office of the US Trade Representative who negotiates on behalf of US government, will meet in Miami from November 16-21, 2003. Debate over the text of the FTAA Treaty will conclude by January 2005 and the treaty is due to take effect by December 2005.

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IP Justice White Paper on FTAA IP Chapter
IP Justice FTAA Educational Campaign
IP Justice's Top 10 Reasons to Delete FTAA's IP Chapter
IP Justice Petition to Delete FTAA's IP Chapter
Official FTAA Website
Draft chapter on intellectual property rights in FTAA Agreement

Other MP3 stories:
CDs and the Scarcity Principle
RIAA Sequentially Repeating Edison's Mistakes

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