Make copyright great again

With President Trump recently installed in the White House, will the internet industry be able to convince him to look at copyright?

Donald Trump, as the new US president, has an enormous task ahead of him.

It’s largely unclear how he will tackle Wall Street while simultaneously dismantling post-financial crisis financial services regulation, nor is it obvious what will replace the soon-to-be-repealed Affordable Care Act, negatively known as ‘Obamacare’, which is both derided as too expensive and lauded as a life-saver.

And these are just two areas of domestic policy—his plans in foreign spheres are arguably even more controversial.

As a result, little if anything is known about his plans for intellectual property.

The only insights, and contradictory ones at that, are a campaign policy that alludes to improving “protection of America’s intellectual property in China”, and his promise to dismantle the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would both significantly raise protection of US-owned IP in signatory countries.

Indeed, one of Trump’s first actions as president was to pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trump’s attitude toward business offers more clues.

His cabinet appointments are full of business professionals with experience that the new president promises will make America great again, which, in Trump speak, means wealthier.

It’s no surprise then that prominent trade groups were quick to provide the new president with suggestions on how he should approach this area of law.

The Internet Association, a coalition of more than 40 key players in internet business, including Google, Netflix, Amazon and Twitter, has been louder than most and has been petitioning for US IP reform for some time.

Ellen Schrantz, director of government affairs and counsel at the Internet Association, says: “The president is focused on domestic jobs and the economy and IP is a key part of that.”

“Balanced policies that promote innovation drove the internet industry to 6 percent of US GDP in 2014. Internet industries rely on IP law to boost domestic job growth at an increasing rate,” Schrantz explained.

“That’s on top of the growth they already provide to small businesses nationwide through access to global markets at the click of a button.”

“IP policy is a key economic issue for our economy and we’re hopeful the president will treat it as such.”

The modernisation of copyright law, in particular, should “serve the public interest above the interests of particular industries”.

Schrantz: “The courts have consistently reaffirmed that copyright law is about promoting creativity in the public interest, not about choices amongst stakeholders.”

“Lawmakers should always endeavour towards that goal, which the courts consistently reaffirm through legal and constitutional interpretation,” Schrantz explained.

In November last year, the association provided Trump with a roadmap on IP policy, just six days after his unexpected victory over rival Hillary Clinton.

The association asked that Trump uphold and support Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbour provisions, and modernise the US Copyright Office to “meet the needs of diverse stakeholders and the public interest in the 21st century”. Schrantz says: “The Copyright Office must focus on administrative and policy reforms that reflect its mission to serve the public interest.”

“We firmly believe that enhanced transparency, accountability, and accessibility, as well as technical upgrades, are necessary.”

In its roadmap, the association also asked that Trump use his political sway to ensure that the EU’s Digital Single Market proposals, including the highly controversial link tax, do not make it to implementation as they currently stand.

Schrantz says that, while the Internet Association supports the concept of a Digital Single Market, “some proposals focus on protectionist policies and create concerns for both the internet industry and consumers”. She adds: “We hope that work on Digital Single Market proposals will continue in a way that promotes innovation and competition rather than hinders them.”

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