WASHINGTON — CreativeFuture, the coalition of entertainment and media industry groups and creative professionals, is pushing back on claims from internet firms that they represent the “new faces of the American content industry.”
A group of tech and internet trade groups, including the Internet Association, sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer late last month outlining their wish list as negotiations proceed on an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement. In the letter, they said that they represent the “new faces” of content, given that such platforms as Netflix and Amazon are among their ranks.
The characterization was, in the eyes of content groups, audacious, particularly given that they often have found themselves at odds on key policy points when it comes to fighting piracy and, in this case, on trade.
In a letter to Lighthizer, Ruth Vitale, the CEO of CreativeFuture, wrote that “while I would take issue with anyone claiming to represent all ‘the new faces of the American content industry,’ I can comfortably tell you that CreativeFuture represents many of the true faces.” She added that they “respectfully disagree with the views expressed by those tech trade associations.”
When it comes to NAFTA, the internet and tech groups want “safe harbor” provisions akin to those in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That generally shields firms from liability for unauthorized copyrighted content posted on their sites, as long as they promptly remove it upon notice.
But Vitale writes that “it’s irrefutable that the outdated, overly broad safe harbor proposals that currently exist in U.S. law and prevent effective enforcement of rights under copyright have had a negative impact on American creative works themselves — the movies, music, television shows, books, photographs, video games, and more that make our creative economy the envy of the world.”
Vitale added, “Why should these provisions be in an updated NAFTA — undermining protections for American creatives overseas? Our communities rely on strong intellectual property protections — protections that must be strengthened and improved, not undermined by these outdated ‘safe harbors.’ Please don’t export a system that does nothing but shelter the most powerful internet companies, rather than the start-ups that these tech trade associations often claim are the beneficiaries of safe harbor. In short, we should not try to export laws that are subject of serious dispute at home.”
Many in the content industry have long complained that the “safe harbor” provision puts the onus on copyright holders to police the internet, forcing them, as Vitale writes, to “play an endless game of ‘Whac-a-Mole'” as infringing content frequently pops up elsewhere.
She wrote that “it would be far wiser and more forward looking to instead include high-level principles that reflect sound policy, while preserving the ability of the U.S. and our trading partners to try new ideas, informed by lessons about the internet’s problems, its evolving nature, and the DMCA’s demonstrable shortcomings since its adoption in 1998.”
But internet firms see the safe harbor as a provision that has allowed platforms to flourish.
The internet and tech groups wrote in their letter that “if we seek to create an international obligation in a modernized NAFTA that embodies only one part of the U.S. copyright framework, but leave out other portions that the U.S. technology sector depends on, we will cause serious harm to the most innovative and fastest growing segments of our economy, and put at risk vital jobs. This is why it is essential to ensure the balance at the heart of the U.S. copyright system, including DMCA safe harbors and other copyright limitations and exceptions, is embraced by our key trading partners in North America.”
Vitale, though, asked Lighthizer to use “heavy skepticism towards anyone who claims to speak for creatives but who really speak for the our powerful and unregulated companies in the world.”
Read Vitale’s letter in full here.