USTR Announces What Countries Have Been Naughty When It Comes To Intellectual Property

from the look-in-the-mirror dept

Every year, the USTR puts out its "Special 301" report, which tries to name and shame countries whose intellectual property laws and enforcement don't live up to some mythical standard. The report is not objective. It's not based on data. It's basically based on the entertainment industry and the pharma industry telling the USTR which countries they don't like... and the USTR taking their words and putting them into a report. It's become something of a running joke to pretty much everyone outside of the USTR or the entertainment and pharmaceutical industries. Last year, at a conference on copyright issues, I even heard people from the US Copyright Office making fun of the USTR's Special 301 report. When even your own country's copyright office is mocking your report on copyright issues, you know you've gone too far. Hell, even ACTA supporters are mocking the Special 301 report as being "petty."

What made the Special 301 report just slightly different this year, was that the USTR was just ever so slightly more open in listening to the public, rather than just industry, concerning who should be on the list. So lots of folks, including myself sent in comments. Apparently, they had little effect.

The USTR has released the list again (pdf) and it's basically the same deal as in previous years. No methodology. No real interest in hearing concerns of consumers or about the rights of individual countries to make their own laws. About the only thing that the public consultation did was allow the USTR to say in the report that it "enhanced its public engagement activities." It notes that there were 571 comments from interested parties, which is a lot more than in the past. But there doesn't seem to be much in the actual report that reflects the concerns raised by myself and many others.

About the only point that the USTR backed down on (and even so, it was marginal), was that it's willing to admit that there are concerns in public health circles that heavy handed enforcement of pharma patents in some countries creates significant harm. However, it still says it wants to "monitor" countries that do compulsory licensing of patents. Of course, as Jamie Love points out, these days, there's a fair bit of compulsory licensing in the US as well, which the USTR fails to mention. Oops.

While the Free Software Foundation notes that the industry's request to shame countries that advocate for open source software usage in government didn't make the list, that's not really a huge surprise. That was clearly an extreme position, which did a nice job highlighting how the industry was using the 301 report to be anticompetitive, not pro-copyright.

Finally, there's the Canadian situation. The punchline of the joke that is the Special 301 report is that Canada gets included every year, despite its strong enforcement of intellectual property laws (despite what the industry claims). Once again, the USTR report appears to ignore the reality in Canada, and simply make stuff up, entirely based on things the entertainment industry falsely claims about Canada. Of course, these days, Canadian politicians have returned the favor by telling the US that it "does not recognize the 301 watch list process" because it "lacks reliable and objective analysis." Of course, as Michael Geist notes, 4.3 billion people live in countries that the USTR finds problematic. Perhaps, he points out, the problem is with the US, rather than those other countries.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Laurel L. Russwurm (profile), Apr 30th, 2010 @ 3:57pm

    Who'a thunk Canada could be considered "Naughty"

    At least Canada is "above" all this. Geographically if nothing else.

    Since my government couldn't be bothered I made a submission as a private citizen from Canada, the land of snow and supposed piracy. And being a highly addicted blogger, I blogged it as well. And they still didn't listen.

    Shame on the USTR.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2010 @ 4:38pm

    "4.3 billion people live in countries that the USTR finds problematic."

    Not to mention I suspect that plenty of people in the U.S. are also appalled at our current IP laws, or would be had they been more informed about them (ie: copyright length), but far be it for governments to actually represent the population and their will. No, big corporations know best.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 30th, 2010 @ 6:16pm

    Who in the hell wrote this thing...

    This entire report is about what other countries should do to maximize the profits of american corporations. What I find humorous is that there is an increasing trend for foreign companies to file infringement lawsuits against US companies. They are learning ip law is a cash cow and an easy way to prevent competition. This trend is increasinganddoesnt bode well for US corporations. My guess is when more money is leaving the US than is coming in from IP law suits that the IP maximalists will ask for IP reform.

    JMHO David

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2010 @ 6:56pm

    "Of course, as Jamie Love points out, these days, there's a fair bit of compulsory licensing in the US as well, which the USTR fails to mention. Oops."

    The eBay decision by no rational measure can even remotely be construed as a compulsory licensing mechanism.

     

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  5.  
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    Daemon_ZOGG (profile), May 1st, 2010 @ 7:36am

    The "special" 301 report... }:p

    With Ron Kirk's name at the top of the list, you know it's going to be a pro-US, facist report against the rest of the world.
    Half of the time, pirated media and software is better than the real thing. Less fluff, more substance, cheaper prices (the ones that aren't offered for free). The quality is getting better as well. Lots of people, including me, don't care about the original manufacturer anymore. They just want it. The US was all for a global market and sent our jobs overseas. Well.. Here it is! Piracy included. So, all ron kirk and his kronies are doing is pissing directly against the wind. };p ;D

     

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    TtfnJohn (profile), May 1st, 2010 @ 9:49am

    Oh my oh my!

    As Canadians we're often just glad to be mentioned by something official in Washington other than softwood lumber BS. Or this.

    This does have a bright side to it, other than the obvious Streisand effect on this side of the border. It simply shows how petty and silly the whole thing is. A good laugh break from the NHL playoffs.

    RE:Hephaestus. It's encouraging to see Europeans waking up to various quirks in the US Judicial System that make it a better cash cow than Goldman Sachs would ever have been. There's a well known list of US Federal District Courts that are just perfect for IP suits that almost always seem to award huge amounts for imaginary violations and toss in injunctions for free. Thing is that some of the complainers who contribute to this "report" are European companies so it's hard to say this is simply an extension of American corporate power by any other means. What's much more appalling is the idea that somehow the US is entitled to extraterritoriality apply its laws to other countries.
    Just one thing. How did the BRIC countries not get on this list? Heaven forbid it might be politics!

     

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  7.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), May 1st, 2010 @ 9:59am

    Re: Oh my oh my!

    Me bad...the BRIC countries did make the list. I'm sure they're quaking in their boots.

    The biggest problem seems to be that the report is based or rumours or hearsay and little else. And a total misreading of the status of the Courts in Canada. Customs can seize whatever the heck it wants. After that it needs to convince a court that it can keep it and that a violation (real not imagined) of some Act of Parliament has occurred.

     

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  8.  
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    Micky, May 1st, 2010 @ 3:42pm

    On Spain

    "The Spanish government has not amended portions of a 2006 Prosecutor General Circular that appears to decriminalize illegal peer-to-peer file sharing of infringing materials, contributing to a public misperception in Spain that such activity is lawful."

    There's nothing to amend! That circular clearly states that it is not illegal to share files in Spain. There's no misperception by the public at all. IP associations avoid talking about the circular, and the whole judiciary system abides that circular.

    "In January 2010, the Commission proposed legislation that would allow a committee based in the Ministry of Culture"

    A travesty that was rethought, as no "committee" can function as a judge and shut down publications. This "committee" is the proof that it is not illegal in Spain to share files; they tried to create a "committee" because every case brought to court so far has received but one response: "it is not illegal". So, since courts produce no verdict in their favor, they want to be able to decide themselves what websites/software to shut down.

    This is far from being over in Spain, the execution of the amendment to the law that proposed the "committee" is still to be put in practice, and none knows what will happen next.

     

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