President Trump was certainly happy with the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal that he announced yesterday, describing it as “one of the most advanced trade deals” in the world that’s “truly extraordinary for US, Canada and Mexico”. Although his subsequent comments and behaviour at the press conference to announce the deal – particularly his belittling treatment of ABC journalist Cecilia Vega – have unsurprisingly hogged the headlines from the event.
USMCA has implications for the music industry, however, due to its provisions around copyright. Among the compromises that Canada agreed to, for example, is the extension of the term of protection for copyright and related rights to a minimum of life plus 70 years, as opposed to the previous term of life plus 50 years in Canada.
The trade deal also has some important sections on safe harbour, extending some of the provisions from the US DCMA legislation to Mexico and Canada for the first time, giving internet services some protection from liability for copyright infringement by their users – but with “legal incentives for Internet Service Providers to cooperate with copyright owners to deter the unauthorised storage and transmission of copyrighted materials or, in the alternative, to take other action to deter the unauthorised storage and transmission of copyrighted materials”.
Is this good or bad from the music industry’s perspective? Judge that by the statement that quickly emerged from Mitch Glazier, president of the RIAA. “Unfortunately, the agreement’s proposed text does not advance adequate modern copyright protections for American creators. Instead, the proposal enshrines regulatory twenty-year-old ‘safe harbour’ provisions that do not comport with today’s digital reality,” said Glazier. “These provisions enrich platforms that abuse outdated liability protections at the expense of American creators and the US music community, which provides real jobs and is one of our nation’s biggest cultural assets.”
Mexico in particular has become one of the most important markets for music-streaming services, including those that sit outside safe-harbour (like Spotify) and those that do not (like YouTube). Glazier’s hope is that “modern trade treaties should advance the policy priority of encouraging more accountability on public platforms, not less”, hinting at more lobbying ahead now that USMCA has been agreed. “We look forward to working with both USTR [the Office of the United States Trade Representative] and Congress to ensure that this text serves not as a precedent but a launching pad for future negotiations toward a framework that works for everyone in the digital marketplace, including creators…”