There is a growing recognition that the digital environment demands expansions in rights to use copyrighted material without permission of owners to facilitate a range of modern activities from social media, to online learning, to Internet search. With information increasingly available only in digital format, public interest objectives, including to promote education, cultural memory, and access to knowledge, can only be served when copyright retains the flexibility to adapt to changing formats and uses.

New research shows that digital user rights can have positive effects on innovation, creativity, and foreign direct investment, but that the adoption of digital user rights has been slow and unequally distributed between developing and wealthy countries. In this context, international copyright law – including in trade agreements – should be focused on the traditional goal of achieving “balance” between protections for copyright owners and user rights that serve “the larger public interest, particularly education, research and access to information.”

NAFTA and other ongoing trade agreement negotiations have been deplorably secret. We reaffirm the statement of the international academic and public interest communities in the Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest 2011:

International intellectual property policy affects a broad range of interests within society, not just those of rights holders. Thus, intellectual property policy making should be conducted through mechanisms of transparency and openness that encourage broad public participation. New rules should be made within the existing forums responsible for intellectual property policy, where both developed and developing countries have full representation, and where the texts of and forums for considering proposals are open.

Our understanding, based on numerous conversations with people knowledgeable of each party’s undisclosed positions, is that there has been no agreement to include provisions promoting copyright user rights or the principle of balance in NAFTA. Absence of such provisions would make the final
agreement unacceptable.

While maintaining our reservations about using closed-door trade forums to make international intellectual property policy, we call on all parties to NAFTA – and international copyright negotiations
more generally – to support the following principles necessary to safeguard the public interest in the
digital environment.

Full letter here.

Michael Geist, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law
David Fewer, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law
Lucie Guibault, Dalhousie University, Schulich School of Law
Sara Bannerman, McMaster University, Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia
Samuel E. Trosow, University of Western Ontario
Carys Craig, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Tesh Dagne, Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law
Cameron Hutchison, University of Alberta Faculty of Law
Graham Reynolds, University of British Columbia
Jon Penney, Dalhousie University, Schulich School of Law
Pascale Chapdelaine, University of Windsor Faculty of Law
Kelsey Merkley, Creative Commons Canada
Cynthia Khoo, OpenMedia
Blayne Haggart, Brock University
Susan Haigh, Canadian Association of Research Libraries
Mistrale Goudreau, University of Ottawa
Florian Martin-Bariteau, University of Ottawa
Ariel Katz, University of Toronto
Antonio Martínez Velázquez, Horizontal
Carlos Brito, R3D
Juan Casanueva, Social Tic
Jonathan Hernandez Perez, Mexican National College of Librarians (CNB)
Maria Paz Canales, Derechos Digitales
Gisela Pérez de Acha, Derechos Digitales
Paulina Gutierrez, ARTICLE19 México & Central America Office
Luis Gil Abinader, Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO)
Mark Perry, University of New England, Armidale, Australia
Yong Liu, Hebei Academy of Social Sciences
Darius Whelan, School of Law, University College Cork
Alfred de Zayas, Geneva School of Diplomacy
Brandt Dainow, Internet Society
Mariano Genovesi, Universidad Buenos Aires
Ana Ramalho, Maastricht University
Henning Grosse Ruse-Khan, University of Cambridge, King’s College
Peter Jaszi, American University Washington College of Law
Sean Flynn, American University Washington College of Law
Hillary Brill, American University Washington College of Law
Matthew Sag, Loyola University Chicago
Margot Kaminski, University of Colorado Law
Timothy K. Armstrong, University of Cincinnati College of Law
Anupam Chander, UC Davis Law School
Pam Samuelson, Berkeley Law
Mark A. Lemley, Stanford Law School
Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University School of Law
Annemarie Bridy, University of Idaho College of Law
Peter K. Yu, Texas A&M University School of Law
Rebecca Tushnet, Harvard Law School
Brook K. Baker, Northeastern University School of Law
Llewellyn Gibbons, University of Toledo School of Law
Michael Madison, University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Brandon Butler, University of Virginia Library
David Levine, Elon University School of Law/Stanford Center for Internet and Society
Michael Carrier, Rutgers Law School
Debora Halbert, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Christine Farley, American University Washington College of Law
Yvette Joy Liebesman, Saint Louis University School of Law
Michael W. Carroll, American University Washington College of Law
Jonathan Band, Library Copyright Alliance
Carrie Russell, American Library Association
Krista L. Cox, Association of Research Libraries
Burcu Kilic, Public Citizen
Gus Rossi, Public Knowledge
Sasha Moss, R Street Institute
Josh Lamel, Re:Create Coalition
Andrew Goldman, Knowledge Ecology International
Jeremy Malcolm, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Richard Hill, Association for Proper Internet Governance
Mike Palmedo, Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property
Matthew Schruers, Computer & Communications Industry Association
Timothy Vollmer, Creative Commons
Meredith Jacob, Creative Commons USA
Margaret Chon, Seattle University Law School
Internet Governance Project, Georgia Institute of Technology
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Center for Democracy & Technology
Library Copyright Alliance
American Library Association
Association of Research Libraries
Association of College & Research Libraries