Will New D.C. Leadership Influence the Independents' Business Landscape?

President Trump recently announced his picks to lead the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), both positions are vitally important and have the potential to significantly impact the film and television industry.  Once in office, both individuals are expected to act quickly to review current policy and recommend adjustments in line with the new administration’s view toward an “America First Trade Policy” and overall reduced government regulation.

With respect to trade, President Trump has nominated Robert Lighthizer for the U.S. Trade Representative.  Upon confirmation by the Senate, he will be responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade policy and overseeing trade negotiations with other countries.  Mr. Lighthizer previously served as a deputy USTR during the Reagan administration and most recently as a partner at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP focusing his practice on international trade.  He has been an outspoken critic of China’s closed market policies.

The Trump administration has promised a comprehensive review of all U.S. trade agreements, including the withdrawal from the regional Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a move that is already in motion, signaling a shift in the direction of U.S. trade policy, possibly toward bilateral agreements with trading partners.  IFTA encourages U.S. government participation and leadership in negotiating and enforcing trade agreements which strengthen the framework for intellectual property protection and enforcement while preventing new barriers in the digital arena.        

President Trump has also selected FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai to serve as the new Chairman of the Commission. Pai has already assumed his new post based on his 2012 Senate confirmation following his appointment to the Commission under the Obama Administration.  Prior to joining the FCC, Mr. Pai held staff positions in the U.S. Senate, Justice Department, and in private industry as a lawyer at Verizon.  

The FCC is directed by five Commissioners (which includes the Chairman) who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.  Only three Commissioners can be of the same political party at any given time, therefore the remaining two appointments will include one Republican and one Democrat appointee.  In the meantime, the Commission continues to function and make decisions in its current three-Commissioner configuration.

Although the FCC operates as an independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, Chairman Pai’s regulatory philosophy seems to be consistent with the new administration’s view toward limited government involvement.  In that respect, Chairman Pai has already acted to remove the controversial “Set-Top Box Proposal” from the Commission’s agenda.  The proposal had already met strong opposition from IFTA, and virtually the entire creative sector, noting its potential harm to important copyright principles, the unsettling of underlying contracts, and the otherwise destabilization of the production or distribution of content.

Chairman Pai has also indicated that the Commission will revisit certain aspects of the 2015 Open Internet Order that established the current net neutrality rules, requiring ISPs to provide consumers with access to legal content and services on an equal basis irrespective of its source.  IFTA has been a long-standing advocate to ensure that the principles of non-discrimination and open access also are extended to the Internet and will continue to follow this matter closely.

As the U.S. grapples with the uncertainty surrounding the new administration, IFTA is moving forward with its plans to comment on current U.S. Government dockets in process, including USTR’s annual Special 301 Review of intellectual property protection and market access practices in foreign countries and the U.S. Copyright Office’s public study on the impact and effectiveness of the safe harbor provisions set forth in section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

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