US Industry Lobbyists Hope India Will Lock Up More Potential Copyright Infringers
from the that'll-solve-the-problem dept
Back in February, there was a fair bit of attention paid to some of the more ridiculous parts of the IIPA’s filing for the USTR’s Special 301 report, which seeks to figure out which countries US diplomats should threaten most heavily over their failure to kowtow to US copyright interests. The IIPA is, of course, the mega-lobbying group, made up of a variety of other lobbying groups, including the RIAA, MPAA, BSA, ESA and NMPA. A lot of attention was paid, in particular, to the IIPA’s claims that countries that promoted open source software (something that would reduce infringement) were as bad, if not worse, than those that did not crack down on unauthorized copying.
However, some parts of the IIPA’s are even more troubling. Public Knowledge has been digging through the report and is reasonably troubled by the call by the IIPA to expand pre-trial detentions in India for those accused of copyright infringement. The PK article goes through this issue in great detail, but basically some parts of India have laws that allow the gov’t to lock people up as a form of “preventative detention” for people they’re afraid might do something (think Minority Report’s “pre-crime”). Not surprisingly, there are some concerns about how these rules have been used to violate human rights — but still, they are mostly used for “drug-smugglers, human traffickers, bootleggers, and the like.” However, two parts of India expanded the law to cover copyright violations — and, in the case of Tamil Nadu, it was expanded all the way down to merely the potential of possessing a bootleg movie or CD.
In its report, the IIPA claims that by expanding the law to cover copyright, Tamil Nadu successfully deterred infringement. But Public Knowledge looked through the details and found that there was only a temporary blip (something that the IIPA fails to mention, of course):
Given this state of affairs, it’s hardly surprising that pretrial detention would “continue to result in some deterrence,” as the IIPA claims. But while initial reports showed that the imminent addition of ‘video piracy’ to Tamil Nadu’s Goondas Act had a huge deterrent effect, by the time the rule had been in effect for a year piracy had largely bounced back and the local film industry was already clamoring for even more laws. Even the formation of a special video anti-piracy police force (something, incidentally, that the IIPA often calls for in its reports) did not stem the tide of piracy in Tamil Nadu. So it’s unclear how much deterrence these statutes even produce.
Now, of course, it seems troubling enough that a group representing the RIAA, MPAA, BSA and others would call for locking up people for up to a year just because they might come into possession of an unauthorized product, but it’s even more troubling that the IIPA appears to be calling for the US diplomats to punish or threaten India if they do not expand this rule even further. This rule already goes way beyond anything that would be legal in the US, and the point of the Special 301 report is to highlight countries that don’t provide “adequate and effective” rules for protecting copyright. Yet, when a country goes way beyond what’s reasonable, the IIPA is still complaining? And even when those laws don’t appear to help and seem ripe for serious human rights violations? Wow.