As the House was poised to vote on Thursday on a revised U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, the Directors Guild of America expressed dismay that the pact includes a so-called “safe harbor” that shields internet companies from liability for third-party content on their sites.
The provision in the trade pact, an update of the North American Free Trade Agreement known as USCMA, mirrors Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That portion of the 1998 law gives internet sites immunity from lawsuits for third-party infringement, as long as they quickly take down pirated content upon notice from the copyright owner.
The DGA issued a statement on Thursday saying that it was “deeply disappointed” that the trade deal includes the “safe harbor” language.
The guild said that the provision “does nothing but provide a free pass from monetary liability to the world’s largest tech companies at the expense of our members and countless other middle class creative professionals across North America.
“As technology continues to improve through faster connections, more stolen content will be made available—which is why cementing this outdated safe harbor into an international agreement is ill-advised,” the DGA said.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) argued against including the provision in future trade deals in a Ways & Means Committee hearing this week.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that she would have liked to have seen another immunity provision — mirroring language from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — excluded from the USMCA. “I was too late coming in on it,” Pelosi said at a press conference. She said that the provision was a “real gift to big tech.”
Content companies have long railed against the safe harbor provisions, arguing that the internet industry has to do more to police their platforms.
The tech industry, though, has long said that the safe harbor provisions have been key to the dramatic growth of the industry.
In a statement last week, Gary Shapiro, the president of the Consumer Technology Association, said that “in its protections on the internet and digital economy – such as forced data localization prohibitions, balanced copyright provisions and intermediary liability protections – the new NAFTA gives us a key opportunity to cement our nation’s leadership as the best place in the world to develop talent and build companies.”