public knowledgeSee also, Public Knowledge press release and this letter in PDF (CC-BY-SA)

Dear Ambassador Froman: All  consumers  are users of  intellectual property. The  average American  interacts with  hundreds,  if  not  thousands,  of  IP-protected  products  and  goods  each  day.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership must not weaken or otherwise disrupt the protections afforded to American consumers.

The United States  is  a global  leader  in  intellectual property, not only because of the  rights  enjoyed  by  creators  of  knowledge  goods,  but  also  because  of  those  rights granted to consumers. Preserving these rights must be central to any trade negotiation.

Limitations and exceptions to intellectual property rights are absolutely critical to a  functioning marketplace.  The  digital  revolution  has  ushered  in  an  era  of  ubiquitous content. Even without actively seeking out knowledge properties, the average American is constantly  being  exposed  to—and  interacting  with—copyrighted  and  patented  goods. Overbroad intellectual property protections create a minefield of liability through which no consumer, no matter how savvy, can reasonably be expected to navigate.

In the interest of ensuring American consumers, and consumers around the world, can participate in and enjoy the freedoms of a global economy, we ask the following:

The  agreement  must  include  reasonable  proportionality  limits  on remedies.  In  the  United  States,  statutory  damages,  even  when  intended  only  to compensate  for  uncertain  harms  or  deter  infringement,  can  have  dire  and disproportionate  consequences  for  consumers.  Requirements  or  recommendations  for deterrent  damages  in  the  TPP,  absent  limitations  based  upon  principles  of proportionality, could have profound consequences  for users of  IP products, and would chill even lawful use.

The  agreement  must  encourage  fair  use  and  other  key  limitations  and exceptions  to exclusive  rights.  Affirmative protections are also an integral part of the IP landscape. Fair use shields criticism, commentary, and creativity from being stifled by overzealous  rights  holders.  It  protects  fundamental  First  Amendment  rights.  A  system without fair use protections is a system that is designed for abuse.  Over-enforcement is not just rent-seeking; it is active suppression of speech.

The agreement must not reduce or otherwise diminish the public domain. A robust  and  accessible  public  domain  benefits  society  and  the  economy  by  enhancing education, research, and the arts. It fuels job creation and economic growth, and must be protected  in  our  trade  agreements  abroad.  The TPP  must  therefore  not  promote  the lengthening  of  already=long  copyright  terms,  or  allow  restrictions  upon  the  sharing  of scientific discoveries, products or principles, of nature, or abstract ideas.

These protections cannot be sacrificed on the altar of expedience. We urge you to take a firm stance on behalf of American consumers, and not undermine the protections they enjoy at home in the name of expedient negotiation.


Gene Kimmelman
President & CEO

Sherwin Siy
Vice President, Legal Affairs

Carolina Rossini
Vice President, International Policy

Meredith Rose
Staff Attorney