ARCHIVED: U.S.-Chile and U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreements

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August 18, 2003

The Honorable Sherrod Brown
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-3513

Dear Representative Brown:

The American Association of Law Libraries would like to thank you for the July 23, 2003 letter you sent to your colleagues in the House of Representatives opposing the Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) because of provisions that would limit Congress' ability to enact compulsory licensing provisions in the Patent Act. By pointing out how "new challenges facing our nation may give rise to new needs for specialized compulsory licensing laws," you underlined how the Agreement constricts Congress' authority to pursue otherwise appropriate policy options.

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is a nonprofit educational organization with over 5000 members nationwide who respond to the legal information needs of legislators, judges, and other public officials at all levels of government, corporations and small businesses, law professors and students, attorneys, and members of the general public. AALL's mission is to promote and enhance the value of law libraries, to foster law librarianship and to provide leadership and advocacy in the field of legal information and information policy.

In your letter, you asked your colleagues to reject the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement because it limits Congress' ability to enact compulsory licensing. AALL joined with our coalition partners in the library community to raise similar concerns with respect to the copyright provisions in the US-Chile and US-Singapore Free Trade Agreements. We opposed these agreements because they both require:

  • that the duration of the copyright term reflect the U.S. rule of life + 70 years rather than the international standard of life + 50;  
  • that anti-circumvention rules be adopted which reflect the expansive provisions of section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, including strong device prohibitions; and,  
  • that the reproduction right expressly include temporary copies. Under current standards, temporary copies in RAM do not necessarily implicate the reproduction right. These agreements actually extend the scope of copyright protection well beyond what exists even under current U.S. law. This extension of the reproduction right to temporary copies would have negative implications for reading and browsing, and has consistently been strongly opposed by the user community. A similar provision was proposed and rejected as part of the WIPO Copyright Treaty.

We argued that the inclusion of the life + 70 copyright term and the strong version of the anti-circumvention rules not only would impose a U.S.-centric version of copyright policy on our trading partners in the developing world, but would also "lock-in" bad copyright policies at the domestic level. An expanded treatment of these and other concerns is provided in our letters dated June 19, 2003 to the House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. We raised similar concerns in our supplemental submission to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on the Second Draft Consolidated Texts of the Free Trade Area of the Americas Agreement (FTAA), dated February 28, 2003.

In addition to opposing these two FTAs and lodging concerns about the FTAA, we have argued that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is generally using its fast-track authority to unduly expand copyright protections in a way that does not take into account the careful balancing of interests that copyright policy has long sought to promote. We have argued that it is neither appropriate nor in the public interest to permit far-reaching intellectual property laws to be made without the benefit of public debate and Congressional oversight.

Rep. Brown, we applaud your recognition that the Singapore FTA constricts Congress' authority to promote new technologies and innovations particularly when they have broad public purpose goals. Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Robert L. Oakley
Washington Affairs Representative
American Association of Law Libraries