Some of the same groups that backed controversial legislation to crack down on piracy on foreign websites are urging the Obama administration to support strong intellectual property protections in a trade agreement with a group of Asia-Pacific countries.
The United States and eight other countries are meeting in Dallas over the next 10 days for the 12th round of talks on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and are expected to deal with patents and enforcement of intellectual property.
A coalition of trade groups representing a broad range of U.S. industries wrote President Obama Tuesday to urge that his administration push for the inclusion of strong protections for intellectual property in the agreement.
"While the benefits of strong IP protections and enforcement are widely supported throughout the United States and safeguarded in our Constitution and laws, such protections are at serious risk in the ongoing TPP negotiations," according to the letter signed by industry groups such as the Association of American Publishers, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Some seek to enshrine low standards of protection, with limited enforcement, in the final TPP agreement, arguing that U.S. proposals would be harmful and could undermine other interests."
The letter was signed by many of the same groups that pushed for the anti-piracy bills known as the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Senate's Protect IP Act. Both bills were sidelined in January after facing fierce opposition from tech firms, Internet advocates and others.
In their letter to Obama Tuesday, the industry groups argued that more "rigorous IP rules are needed to thwart the explosion" of copyright and trademark infringement. Supporters of the anti-piracy bills made many of the same arguments in pushing for SOPA and Protect IP, saying they lacked tools to go after the growth in foreign websites offering pirated U.S. content or counterfeit goods.
Several public interest groups, however, have raised concerns that the United States will push for strong IP protections without including some of the exceptions in U.S. law. They also have been critical of the process, which they said is too secretive. They noted that the U.S. trade officials have released little information about the proposed pact.
The negotiations over TPP appear to be focused "on one side of the equation while excusing any provisions that deal with copyright limitations and exceptions," Rashmi Rangnath, director of Public Knowledge's Global Knowledge Initiative, said in a conference call last week with reporters.
An official with the U.S. Trade Representative's office tried to address such concerns during remarks at the Computer and Communications Industry Association annual conference late last month.
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said the United States was working to "strike the right balance with respect to copyright protection with having a high standard for copyright protection while at the same time recognizing that there are legitimate exceptions to that, such as fair use."