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US record industry shouts ‘value gap’ ahead of Donald Trump’s NAFTA review

By | Published on Thursday 22 June 2017

Donald Trump

Old Donnie Trump from the United States Of Trumpton is having a good go at reforming the North American Free Trade Agreement – or NAFTA to its friends – the long-established free trade deal between the US, Canada and Mexico. And with that in mind, interested parties Stateside have been invited to make submissions outlining what they would like to see prioritised in any new trade talks between the three North American nations.

And guess what the Recording Industry Association Of America has put at the top of its priority list. Go on, have a guess! Think about it. Think about it. What is the one thing the US record industry would like the Trumpeters to discuss when they sit down with their Canadian and Mexican comrades? That’s right, the big bad value gap! Well done. You win a prize. Though the headline to this article sort of gave it away, didn’t it? So on second thoughts, no prize. Because that would be a prize for reading.

But yes, the RIAA wants American negotiators to talk safe harbours with their Canadian and Mexican counterparts. The music industry, of course, reckons that the safe harbours that protect internet service providers and such like from liability for their customers’ copyright infringement should not apply to user-upload platforms like YouTube. And they want copyright law rewritten to that effect.

In its submission on the upcoming NAFTA negotiations, the RIAA writes: “According to one recent report, this safe harbour exemption acts as an enormous subsidy to the dominant incumbent video-streaming service [YouTube], a subsidy worth approximately $650 million to $1 billion annually. This company-specific industrial policy places one incumbent service at a fundamentally unfair advantage over other legitimate music services, which do not receive this enormous discount that was never intended by the legislative drafters, and instead negotiate commercial licenses with rights holders”.

The three North American countries, reckons the RIAA, should together pursue “a concise, high-level and high-standard service provider liability provision with respect to copyright infringement”, meaning that “the safe harbours are only available to passive intermediaries without requisite knowledge of the infringement on their platforms, and inapplicable to services actively engaged in communicating to the public”.

Of course, the American record industry hasn’t achieved that in America yet, let alone Canada and Mexico. And few expect the ongoing US Copyright Office review of safe harbours to result in a speedy rewrite of the country’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act – where the safe harbour resides Stateside – even if the review advocates reform. Which is something Canada and Mexico are sure to point out if the US demands this measure.

Still, worth asking. The RIAA’s lengthy submission covers an assortment of other copyright issues, including firming up the controls that come with the copyright, cutting back on compulsory licences and copyright exceptions, and other anti-piracy measures. You can read the full submission here.