The FTAA and Intellectual Property Rights

Stop the FTAA Information Lockdown

The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Treaty was an unsuccessful attempt to create a regional trade agreement among the 34 “democracies” in the Western Hemisphere. Had it not failed, it would have governed a population of over 800 million citizens.

Original image courtesy NASA

Just like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the FTAA Treaty would have required signatory nations to amend their domestic laws on a variety of subjects including intellectual property rights.

FTAA Treaty negotiations were supposed to have concluded in January 2005, but that deadline was missed and negotiations stalled. Now FTAA talks have splintered into a series bilateral trade agreements between the US and various Latin American countries.

The FTAA draft agreement’s Chapter on Intellectual Property Rights read like a “wish list” for “special interests” such as Microsoft, the MPAA, and the RIAA. Instead of promoting free trade and encouraging creativity, the proposed “free trade” agreement threatened to chill speech and create monopolies for a few US corporations. The IP chapter’s extreme and unbalanced provisions would have drastically expand IP protections at the expense of civil liberties.

The FTAA’s Chapter on Intellectual Property Rights threatened to:

  • Mandate imprisonment for P2P file-sharing and other non-commercial infringements throughout the Americas;
  • Forbid consumers from bypassing the technical restrictions on their own CD’s and DVDs, more broadly than the DMCA;
  • Limit consumers’ traditional “Fair Use” and “Personal Use” rights under copyright law;
  • Create monopolies over media devices and aftermarket replacement parts;
  • Reduce the pubic domain by requiring all 33 other FTAA countries to extend copyright term to the new “TRIPS-plus” standard of a minimum of 70 years after the death of a creator;
  • Chill freedom of expression and scientific research by outlawing technical papers;
  • Force individuals to send Internet domain name disputes to a private unaccountable organization for a determination of rights;
  • Restrain trade and inhibit competition in favor of industry incumbents;
  • Expand the scope of copyright to permit copyrighting of data and facts;

The Office of the US Trade Representative negotiates on behalf of the United States

Original image courtesy Konrad Baranski