Time To Change (Or Ditch) The USTR Special 301 Process That Pressures Other Countries To Adapt US IP Laws
from the get-rid-of-it dept
A few days ago, you may remember, I posted the comments I submitted to the USTR on the Special 301 report, where I pointed out the value of allowing countries to set their own intellectual property policy, rather than forcing everyone to follow US faith-based intellectual property policy. Traditionally, the Special 301 process was a way for industry lobbyists to get the US gov’t to put countries they didn’t like on a special “watch list,” that would lead US diplomats, who didn’t even understand the lack of factual basis for the report, to start putting pressure on other countries to change their intellectual property policies to make them more draconian (funny, isn’t it, that they only went in one direction?). Basically, lobbyists would submit the details of countries whose IP policies they didn’t like, and the USTR would basically turn around and put out a list based on what was submitted, with little effort to actually look at the situation. This year, at least, the public was able to submit comments (such as mine, linked above), but it’s unclear how much of an impact that will have.
In the meantime, EFF and Public Knowledge have teamed up to ask the USTR to change the process and, at the very least, stop taking the word of industry lobbyists as if it were gospel. They also suggested that the USTR be more flexible in allowing countries to set their own IP policy — noting, amusingly, that the US itself famously didn’t implement its “international obligations” in the Berne Treaty for decades, because the country felt differently about certain aspects of copyright law. Hell, even today we’re not in full compliance with Berne. But for some reason the USTR acts as if other countries need to fall in line with US IP policy, even as we’ve chosen to go in a different direction when we felt it was warranted.
Of course, the best thing to do isn’t to change the Special 301 process, but to ditch it entirely. It serves no reasonable purpose and has been abused by industry representatives for years. It puts a strain on US relations with other countries, and harms the ability for other countries to craft IP policy in the way that they feel will best serve culture and innovation.