I was recently in Washington, D.C. with CreativeFuture, an organization that advocates for the rights of creatives.
I spoke with policymakers about copyright and trade while President Trump’s landmark NAFTA renegotiations were underway. There is much at stake in these discussions, including the ability of millions of American workers to make a living in entertainment and other copyright industries.
Last year, in the negotiations over the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, Silicon Valley convinced our leaders that weaker copyright language should be included in the deal. After all, the weaker copyright is, the more they benefit. What we create, regardless of whether it is legally distributed or not, brings millions of visitors to their sites. Had the TPP been agreed to, it would have exported our broken copyright system, one that disadvantages hardworking American creatives, to the international stage.
Now they are trying to do the same with NAFTA. It’s time to say “enough.” While these entities have grown to be the largest companies in the world, millions of creatives are struggling to protect their content and make a living.
As a film and television producer, I obviously have a personal stake in the outcome of these negotiations. However, the ramifications for creative people across this country are huge. If our current leaders hope to protect our interests as Americans (and set an example for the world), they need to put jobs first – and that means starting these negotiations with a strong bargaining position on copyright protections.
Protecting our economy, protecting jobs, and protecting the rights of creatives are all issues on which both sides of the aisle can agree. When it comes to safeguarding American intellectual property, there truly is no left or right, no liberal or conservative. Promoting creativity and economic growth is a nonpartisan issue – and should not divide us.
As a filmmaker, I want to keep telling stories that connect with audiences in the U.S. and around the world. But I won’t be able to do it if television, feature films, and streaming content are endangered by lax copyright protections at home and abroad.
The negotiations will directly affect the lives of the 5.5 million Americans, including myself, who rely on the core copyright industries to make a living. We are hard-working, risk-taking people – and we’re producers, writers, and film directors, but also caterers, truck drivers, makeup artists, construction workers, and office employees – just to name a handful.
Millions of people wake up every day to make the entertainment we all love. And most businesses in the entertainment industry are not big companies – 84 percent have fewer than 10 employees. Small business and middle-class jobs are actually what the copyright industries are all about.
Rather than weakening copyright policy, we should be returning to our days as a leader in global copyright protections. Those were the days when America was home to the world’s strongest economy and the world’s best creative voices. Insisting that our trade partners enforce strong copyright protections within their borders will bring those days back again.
Copyright is among our country’s most important economic drivers, and creative industries have proven far more dependable job creators than the tech industries.
In fact, the entertainment industry is one of the last businesses with a thriving middle class – millions of workers in television, film, and music who bring us the moments and stories that inspire us. In return, they are offered competitive salaries, valuable health care, and are freely able to unionize and enter into collective bargaining agreements that protect their careers.
When it comes to our overall economy, lawmakers should remember that the core copyright industries generate $1.2 trillion in business every single year. In fact, these industries that rely so heavily on strong copyright protections to exist are responsible for close to 7 percent of all U.S. exports – a larger percentage than aeronautics, agriculture and pharmaceuticals.
With this kind of impact on the American economy and job market, lawmakers must guarantee that any new iteration of NAFTA requires our trade partners to protect our intellectual property within their borders.
We need America’s neighbors to respect American creativity. Strong copyright protections in NAFTA and other trade agreements are how we make that happen.
Gale Anne Hurd is a producer of films and television shows, including the "Terminator" trilogy, "Aliens", "Armageddon", and "The Walking Dead".