Prof. Mark F. Schultz teaches at Southern Illinois University School of Law, and is Chair of the Copyright Alliance’s Academic Advisory Board.
The world’s eyes were on Dallas earlier this month as negotiators convened to work on the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP). One of the essential things the TPP aims for is better protection of intellectual property rights, including copyright.
Modernizing copyright enforcement is a win for both the US and its trading partners.
As the Avengers shattered box office records worldwide, it reminded us that U.S. creative works are one of our most successful and celebrated exports.
But it’s not just big blockbuster movies that demonstrate the importance of the creative industries. All across the U.S. one finds photographers, artists, and writers who rely on copyright to earn a living. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reported that in 2010, IP-intensive industries accounted for $5 trillion in output, 35% of U.S. gross domestic product, and 27 million jobs in the U.S.
As the creative industries modernize distribution, they need the protection of modernized copyright enforcement. Movies, music, pictures, and books are more vulnerable than ever. Meanwhile, pirates have become ever more brazen, moving offshore to avoid the reach of the law.
Working with our trading partners to modernize intellectual property is the smart thing to do economically. It’s also the right thing to do. Creators deserve to be paid for their work.
Protecting copyright is also a win for U.S. trading partners. Some claim that our trading partners, particularly developing countries, would be hurt by the TPP’s copyright provisions. They say that these countries are “IP importers” who don’t benefit from IP protection themselves.
No country has to settle for being an IP importer. Despite predictions that U.S. culture would overwhelm the world, plucky young creative industries—“creative upstarts”—are emerging world-wide in the toughest of conditions. For example, in Korea, the Korean government’s decision to foster Korean pop culture 20 years ago has paid off spectacularly.
A Korean cultural boom, the “Korean Wave,” has swept the world. Young people from China, to Japan, to the U.S. enjoy Korean movies, TV shows, comics, and animation. The Korean Wave was a huge shock to many, since Korean, unlike English, is not a common language. Creativity can transcend even language barriers.
Another example of a creative upstart is Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry. Nollywood is now the world’s most prolific film industry. Nigerian filmmakers produce feature films on tiny budgets of as little as $8000. They want to make movies with higher production values, but piracy limits what they can afford.
What Nollywood, the Korean Wave, and dozens of other creative upstarts show is that people everywhere are creative and innovative. What creative upstarts need next is a little breathing space, the chance to grow and thrive by getting some reliable return on their investment. Copyright enforcement can provide that breathing space.
Better copyright enforcement from our trading partners is actually a win-win proposition for creative upstarts and U.S. media. Worldwide, the biggest competition faced by creators is often from pirated U.S. movies and music.
U.S. creative industries should get paid for their work abroad, while local creators shouldn’t have to compete with ridiculously cheap pirated U.S. works. Trade agreements like the TPP hold the promise that U.S. creative industries and creative upstarts can both win by making pirates lose.
Consumers worldwide will be the biggest winners of all, as we’ll all get more great culture to enjoy.