Congress Battles Piracy With Tough Trade Legislation

Associations endorse efforts to improve enforcement through Trade Promotion Authority

Congressional leaders on Thursday unveiled Trade Promotion Authority legislation intended, in part, to strengthen the U.S. position on foreign piracy and intellectual property theft.

The legislation would force U.S. trade agreements to require that countries buttress their enforcement efforts in order to get preferential benefits.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; his committee’s ranking Democrat Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan together presented the legislation, which allows Congress to consider trade agreements on an up-and-down vote for accords meeting certain minimum standards. The group made clear that protecting intellectual property is one of these minimum standards.

Aides said the latest legislation incorporated the same standards that had first been proposed two years ago. That legislation failed to get a congressional vote.

The entertainment industry is hoping that the trade requirements will push some of the countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement to step up their efforts to fight piracy and officials of several associations in statements Thursday night praised the latest legislation.

“By establishing clear rules for opening foreign markets to exports of U.S. creative content, promoting innovation and creativity through the protection and enforcement of U.S. intellectual property rights, and fostering legitimate digital trade that will benefit both of creators and consumers this legislation is an important step that will benefit American businesses, workers and the overall economy for years to come,” MPAA Chairman and President Chris Dodd said.

Copyright Alliance CEO Sandra Aistars said the language “makes clear that adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights must be one of the United States principal negotiating objectives when negotiating any trade agreement governing intellectual property rights.

“To meaningfully take advantage of the expanding opportunities presented by both technology and trade, creators rely on strong enforcement of copyright protections consistent with U.S. law. The TPA legislation appropriately reflects this understanding,” she said.

The TPA legislation is controversial and opposed by labor union, some environmental groups and consumer groups, but has been endorsed by business groups and other environmental groups.

President Obama has urged the legislation’s passage saying it would ensure the U.S. gets the best deal in trying to negotiate trade agreements.