Historians will one day look back at the presidency of Barack Obama and highlight the administration’s dangerous willingness to short-circuit the Constitution when convenient. From refusing to enforce immigration laws and disregarding rules governing presidential appointments to the outright takeover of our health care system, President Obama has repeatedly painted outside the lines to reward his friends, punish his enemies or to achieve his legislative and political objectives.
There can be little debate that Hollywood and the recording industry have been some of the president’s strongest allies. They invested millions in his reelection campaign and are often credited with helping reach critical undecided swing voters in the president’s favor. Accordingly, the president has seemingly sought to reward those efforts. Recently, the administration formally endorsed a major recording industry priority to change nearly a century of copyright law and create a new subsidy for the recording industry. The so-called “Free Market Royalty Act” would force radio stations to pay a new tax directly to the industry every time a song is played on the radio. What truly makes this a reward to the industry is the manner in which royalties would be implemented-by giving a cabal of record industry executives state-backed monopoly powers to set prices and by outlawing independent negotiations between individual record labels or artists and broadcasters.
Now, recently leaked details of a trade deal being negotiated in secret by the administration reveal more help for Obama’s friends, especially those in Hollywood. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being publicly sold as an agreement to promote free trade between 12 nations. The purpose is ostensibly to generate economic growth through trade. In reality, the TPP appears to be more crony corporatism than free trade. One analysis estimates that of the 29 provisions of the treaty, only five relate to trade. The remaining 24 are handouts to special interests and billion dollar industries. A myriad of Obama allies are rewarded in this treaty but his buddies in the “big content” industry are among the chief beneficiaries.
The TPP is chock full of Hollywood priorities currently unachievable in Congress. The treaty would lock-in many controversial provisions of copyright law including near endless copyright terms. It would also implement new damages provisions that some believe are a backdoor effort to implement the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA), already rejected by Congress. The SOPA-like provisions in TPP would empower and require government to censor websites with little to no due process based solely on allegations of copyright infringement from the industry. Besides censorship, the treaty also creates criminal penalties for alleged infringement.
The White House is seeking “Fast Track” approval of the treaty which would lock in these and many other corporate giveaways out of the reach of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has contradicted the White House and publicly opposed fast track for the TPP. This supposed trade pact is a moment where Republicans should stand firmly with Reid. If Obama, Hollywood and other industries want to change to the laws of our nation, they should go to Congress and convince the American people of the correctness of their proposals. Secret special interest deals that use international treaties to bind the U.S. to otherwise unacceptable policies should not be passed at all, let alone be put on the fast track.