Patent and Trademark Office
As you know, I have been supportive of your efforts to negotiate a protocol to the Berne Convention dealing with copyright and the Global Information Infrastructure and a new instrument dealing with the rights of performers and producers of phonograms. I have also supported in principle the concept of domestic and international protection of databases.
As you are also aware, the parallel effort in Congress to pass legislation concerning copyright protection for the National Information Infrastructure has stalled largely because there is not a clearly articulated domestic consensus on all issues. Earlier this year, when the international agenda was being established, I expected that we would have achieved consensus or near consensus on U.S. legislation by now. We have not. While you and I and others in the Congress have pressed ahead vigorously, serious issues have been raised but not resolved by the legislative process, such as whether on-line service provider liability should be included in NII legislation.
While I continue to support the concept of the protocol, the new instrument, and database protection, I am concerned that the final language of such agreements may reflect decisions on these unresolved issues that may jeopardize Senate ratification of these agreements in the next Congress.
Surely you will not want to be in the position of negotiating final language on a treaty that as yet commands no clear support in the full Senate and which may not ultimately be ratified. Congress will not wish to be in the position of having its hands tied by international developments on the basis of proposed legislation that has stalled precisely because it contains so many unresolved issues.
American interests will be best served if we can get domestic legislation and international agreements that work together for the protection of American interests. We should avoid an international scene governed by treaties negotiated by not adopted by the United States and which are inconsistent with U.S. domestic law.
In brief, as you continue your laudable efforts to protect U.S. creators and copyright owners through international agreements, I urge you to consider the effects that the lack of domestic consensus on certain important issues may have on their ratification.
I would be happy to further discuss these important matters with you further. Please feel free to contact me.
Orrin G. Hatch Chairman