The U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement (and) The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement

  1. What are they?
  2. Why do they concern ALA?

What are they?
In September 2003 President Bush signed free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore, respectively. These treaties are part of U.S. policy to foster meaningful trade relationships throughout the world. The bilateral treaties cover a broad scope of subjects including intellectual property rights, non-immigrant professionals, and domain names on the Internet. Within the chapter on intellectual property rights (chapter 17 of the U.S.-Chile text and chapter 16 of the U.S.-Singapore text) there are specific sections relating to copyright.

Why do they concern ALA?
Many nations such as Chile and Singapore have not yet implemented the international TRIPS Agreement. [LINK The inclusion of intellectual property provisions in the Singapore and Chile agreements obligates each nation to accept existing international standards that are part of the treaty terms. ALA is concerned that some of these provisions are similar to restrictive sections of the U. S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and, therefore, actually exceed TRIPS international standards.

For example, the international standard for the duration of copyright terms is life of the author plus 50 years while in the U.S. the standard has been extended to life of the author plus 70 years. (ALA link to CTEA and Eldred v. Ashcroft) The Chile and Singapore agreements have adopted the longer U. S. standard, one that the library community has vigorously challenged.

TRIPS allows each sovereign nation to determine the mechanism for complying with the TRIPS treaty. At the same time, the inclusion of DMCA-like provisions in these bi-lateral FTA treaties pressures these nations to forgo their own decision-making procedure with regard to these complex policy issues and to copy U.S. law instead. As the trend in international trade agreements seems to favor a copyright regime more favorable to copyright holders, U.S. libraries are concerned that the more the U.S. enters into such agreements, the more difficult it will be to persuade the U.S. Congress to amend the more controversial provisions of the DMCA to achieve a more balanced law.

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