The pro-innovation framework of US copyright law has been critical to enabling technological innovations ranging from the VCR to the iPod to creative platforms like blogs and social media. Two of the most important of these are fair use and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe harbor. Fair use ensures that creators, commenters and innovators are free to remix, transform, review, and make creative new use of copyrighted materials, and it has enabled entire new genres of music and audiovisual works as well as tremendously useful tools for searching, sharing and exploring creative content. The DMCA's "safe harbor" rules provide important legal protections for the operators of online platforms where users post or upload content, and are the reason services like YouTube, Flickr and Wordpress are open to all.
Despite the power of the internet to enable creators, there is an unfortunate myth that the two are in fact on opposite sides of a fight. The pro-innovation policies that drive the creative web are constantly under attack in the US and around the world, and now the opponents of these policies are working hard to use the NAFTA renegotiations as a way to undermine them. New provisions being sought in NAFTA could force the US to abandon or constrain its strong pro-innovation principles of fair use and copyright safe harbors, and could restrict the other NAFTA nations in their efforts to chart their own paths for creative and internet freedom. Even worse, this effort is happening in the name of creators, even as it seeks to undermine the most powerful and accessible creative tool in history.