Big Content and other corporations are pushing for new intellectual property rules in NAFTA that would threaten our freedoms on the internet and restrict our access to information and educational resources.


NAFTA was the first international trade agreement to include specific obligations related to intellectual property (IP). Far from encouraging “free trade,” these IP terms actually blocked access and creativity by locking in long monopoly rights for Big Content, including the music recording industry and Hollywood studios, as well as pharmaceutical giants. These industries were able to insert anti-consumer, anti-internet user provisions because trade negotiations are done behind closed doors with hundreds of official U.S. trade advisors representing industry interests while the public is locked out. Using NAFTA to lock in these forms of corporate protectionism has compromised cultural and educational sharing ever since.

Now with NAFTA renegotiations underway, the industry wants even more expansive monopolies.

Corporate demands for NAFTA renegotiation include:

  • Requirements that governments enact and enforce criminal penalties for even small-scale copyright infringement, such as sending copies of a recipe you found online to a friend.
  • “Anti-circumvention” rules that criminalize users from working around technological measures, such as unlocking cell phones.
  • Absurdly long copyright protections, locking in the “life of the creator plus 70 years” rule in the U.S. and forcing this rule onto Canada.
  • Requirements that internet service providers act as the copyright police, terminating their users’ internet access after three allegations of copyright infringement (the so-called “three strikes” rule).
  • Provisions limiting “safe harbors,” meaning Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc. would be liable for hosting infringing content. This “secondary liability” can chill free speech and technological development, when service providers protect themselves by limiting or blocking uses of copyrighted materials on their platforms. The limits are almost inevitably too broad, preventing satirical, educational and other fair uses of content.

NAFTA’s IP terms should be one of the most controversial subjects in the renegotiations. But these Hollywood-friendly extreme copyright rules have received almost no public attention.

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