Ex-Senator Christopher Dodd, head of Motion Picture Association – and Sen. Elizabeth Warren
In 1998, the United States Congress granted a 20-year extension of copyright terms — from the life of the author plus 50 years to the life of the author plus 70 years. Economists like Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman were incredulous, arguing that such long terms couldn’t possibly increase the incentive to produce creative works.
Now, through the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the US is trying to force nations ranging from New Zealand to Vietnam to do the same.
And it’s not just copyright terms. The US also has legal protections for digital rights management technologies that are designed to prevent piracy of movies and music. These protections, though, are loathed by the open source movement, and have had a wide variety of unintended consequences, from restricting cellphone unlocking to limiting people’s rights to repair their own cars. Nevertheless, the TPP requires other countries to adopt similar provisions.
The stakes are highest in pharmaceuticals, where industry groups are seeking new regulations to limit competition from generic drugmakers, including extended patent terms and longer terms of exclusivity for a class of drugs called biologics. Critics say this will lead to higher prices, depriving millions of patients of access to lifesaving medicines. But defenders predict that drug companies will blah, blah, blah…Advocates say higher prices are good for everyone in the long run…
There’s no guarantee that boosting drug company profits will cause them to spend a lot more on research and development — perhaps they’ll spend it on marketing, or on dividends for their shareholders. Nor can we be sure that more spending will necessarily have a big impact on the number of lifesaving drugs that are invented or the quality of Hollywood blockbusters.
The argument seems particularly dubious when it comes to lengthening copyright terms. It defies belief to think that lengthening copyright terms from 50 to 70 years is going to induce Hollywood studios or record labels to invest more in creating content — 50 years is too far into the future to have any effect on a company’s financial calculations…
The United States won’t have to change much in the area of intellectual property or copyrights for the TPP. Congress and a couple of administrations in the White House have already guaranteed we have some of the crappiest, profit-centered regulations in the world. Even at that, if we suddenly acquired Congress-critters who have a rush of good will to their brains sufficient to turn them from the path of fulltime pimps – we’d then have to withdraw from the TPP somehow and renegotiate entry and membership.
A bureaucratic process that makes hitting yourself in the forehead with a ball peen hammer seem appealing.