Joint Special 301 Comment by Law Professors and Civil Society Groups

[Joint Comment prepared by Sean Flynn] … The first part of this submission calls on USTR to adopt two interpretive principles in implementing the Special 301 statute. USTR should give proportional consideration to appropriate limitations and exceptions in evaluating foreign intellectual property systems, including by mentioning positive examples of limitations and exceptions in its “best practices” and “positive developments” identifications, and by listing countries on watch lists for egregious cases where a lack of limitations and exceptions stands as a barrier to US trade. The second part of the submission urges USTR to expressly abandon any intent to list a World Trade Organization member on Special 301’s priority foreign country list as an action that would violate either the WTO’s dispute settlement understanding or GSP enabling clause.  Click here for more.

See also:  other TPP comments will be made available by USTR here.

The TPP and Rightsholder Abuse: Unusual Recognition, Discretionary Protections

[Brandon Butler] The Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) is a massive new trade agreement recently negotiated between the US  and a host of countries including Australia, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, and Chile. The TPP’s IP Chapter (PDF) includes a series of provisions that address rightsholder abuse. While the agreement’s acknowledgment of abuse is salutary, and the protections it affords to users are real, these provisions rely largely on the discretion of judicial or administrative authorities, making the agreement’s protections for users less certain than protection for rightsholders. Click here for more.

Fair Is As Fair Does: Contractual Normative Regulation of Copyright User Contracts in South Africa

[Caroline Ncube] Abstract: This chapter considers how contract and consumer protection law could be used to regulate or enhance the fairness of copyright licenses. It specifically considers reprographic reproduction licenses granted to universities and other higher education institutions in South Africa. Click here for the full paper on SSRN.

U.S. Department of Labor Adopts CC-BY Licensing Policy Department-Wide

[Cable Green] Creative Commons (CC) believes publicly funded education, research and data resources should be shared in the global commons. The public should have access to what it paid for, and should not be required to pay twice (or more) to access, use, and remix publicly funded resources. This is why we are pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has adopted a department-wide Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license requirement on intellectual property developed under a competitive Federal award process. Click here for more.

Nigerian Copyright Reform Becomes Less Transparent As Comments Roll In

[Dugie Standeford] The Nigerian government has continued to make progress toward new copyright legislation in recent weeks, but efforts appear to have become less transparent, as the results of a public comment period that ended weeks ago have not been made available and as of press time the draft copy of the bill was no longer available on the Copyright Commission website. A copy of the most recent public draft bill is available here. Consultation on the Nigerian Copyright Commission’s (NCC) Draft Copyright Bill 2015 ended on 5 January, but it’s unclear how many submissions there were because the Commission hasn’t yet posted them and its website has been unavailable for several days. Click here for more.

Problematic Patent Laws Block Access to Critical Breast Cancer Medicine

[Kate Ribet] Leading up to World Cancer Day (4 February 2016), the Fix the Patent Laws coalition released a short video highlighting how shortcomings in South Africa’s patent laws contribute to barriers to access for critical breast cancer medicine trastuzumab. The Fix the Patent Laws coalition is a coalition of 18 patient groups, including the Cancer Alliance, and Alliance members: the Cancer Association of Southern Africa and People Living with Cancer… This briefing document provides background on trastuzumab and patent-related barriers to access. Click here for more.

U.S. Department of Commerce Recommends Amendments to Statutory Damages Provisions in Copyright Act

[US Department of Commerce] A report issued today by the U.S. Department of Commerce recommends amendments to copyright law that would provide both more guidance and greater flexibility to courts in awarding statutory damages. The recommended amendments would ensure continued meaningful protection for intellectual property while preserving the dynamic innovation that has made digital technology so important to the American economy. Click here for more.

7 Reasons Why the European Parliament’s Vision of Copyright Reform Is More Progressive Than the Commission’s

[Natalia Mileszyk] While at this stage almost everyone agrees that the EU’s 2001 Copyright Framework is outdated and needs to be reformed, there is a very broad spectrum of ideas of what such a reform should look like. Recently, two of the three EU legislative bodies (who will need to agree on the final outcome) have laid their cards on the table: on the 9th of December 2015 the European Commission presented its long-awaited communication on copyright ‘Towards a modern, more European copyright framework‘… and on the 19th of January the European Parliament followed up with a report on how to achieve a Digital Single Market Act… Next, the Commission will come up with specific legislative proposals before the summer, which will then need to be approved by the Parliament. In this situation it is interesting to compare the overall positions of these two actors. Click here for more.

Copyright Legal and Practical Reform for the South African Film Industry

[Sean Flynn] Abstract: Copyright’s interest in promoting creative production is often described as requiring a “balance” between exclusion and access rights. Owners of copyright receive exclusive rights to control copies of their works, which enables authors to earn returns on their creations through sales or licensing transactions. But as important to promoting creation are the user rights in copyright law which permit building on the work of predecessors. The necessity for balance in order to promote creation is clearly evident in the documentary film industry, where producers rely on copyright ownership to facilitate the dissemination of their works through broadcasters and other distributors, and on user rights to incorporate excerpts of other copyrighted material in their work. Click here for more.

Student PIRGs Report on College Textbook Spending: Covering the Cost

[Ethan Senack and Robert Donoghue] Over the last decade, the cost of college textbooks has soared. Since 2006, the cost of a college textbook increased by 73% – over four times the rate of inflation. Today, individual textbooks often cost over $200, sometimes as high as $400. Textbook prices have increased unabatedly because the textbook market lacks two major economic forces.  Click here for more.