We’ve written about how international treaties like the Trans-Pacific Partnership tend to be a way to end-run around the laws and courts of any one nation by having multiple governments agree to things that never see voter approval. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, Authors Alliance, Knowledge Ecology International, and New Media Rights would probably agree.
Those organizations have signed a letter to US Trade Representative Michael Froman requesting that he not agree to any provisions in the treaty that would block ongoing attempts in Congress to reform the laws surrounding orphan works. The EFF’s announcement notes:
In the midst of this overdue discussion about how to address this issue the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens to undermine Congress’ own ability to create practical solutions to fix it. The leaked TPP’s Intellectual Property chapter has revealed heavy-handed civil and criminal penalties that could go beyond existing U.S. law to treat even noncommercial uses of copyrighted content, including of orphan works, as illegal and criminal.
Whether this letter will actually have any effect is unclear. If history is any indication, treaty makers don’t tend to care a lot for what voters or advocacy organizations want. Still, it’s a way of drawing more people’s attention to the simple fact that these treaties tend to be a way to override laws with little accountability. I have little doubt that the orphan works matter is far from the only place the TPP would conflict with US laws or prerogatives.