Human Rights Groups Complain About Special 301 Process

from the not-just-a-joke dept

We’ve talked in the past about what a complete joke the USTR’s “special 301” process is. That’s when a bunch of industry lobbyists say which countries are the most annoying to them on intellectual property issues. Then, the USTR sums it all up and says “these countries are problems” and tells US diplomats to go browbeat those countries to have better intellectual property laws and enforcement. Of course, the problem is that there’s no objective research being done. All of the information is heavily biased, and it doesn’t take into account either the actual laws or enforcement in a country (just what industry reps say is going on) or the rights of those countries to make their own decisions when it comes to IP laws.

Over and over again, I’ve heard various government officials and lawyers — even those who are generally supportive of our current intellectual property regime — scoff or roll their eyes about the Special 301 report. It’s basically considered a joke by nearly everyone. However, when a joke is costing people lives and access to necessary medicine, then perhaps it becomes a serious problem. A group of Human Rights organizations have come together to challenge the Special 301 process, saying that it’s being used to push policies that go beyond what the law requires, and which are causing real harm worldwide. They’re saying this actually violates our human rights obligations:

“Since its inception in 1988, the United States Trade Representative’s “Special 301” adjudication of foreign intellectual property law standards has been used to promote policies restricting access to affordable medications around the world. President-elect Obama released a platform promising to “break the stranglehold that a few big drug and insurance companies have on these life-saving drugs” and pledged support for “the rights of sovereign nations to access quality-assured, low-cost generic medication to meet their pressing public health needs.” The 2009 and 2010 Special 301 reports, however, indicate that the Obama Administration has not yet implemented this pledge. Although the 2010 Report shows some improvement, the Obama Administration continues using Special 301 to pressure developing countries to adopt escalating intellectual property rules that are not required by any international agreement and that will negatively impact access to medicines. This complaint will allege that the continuation of Special 301 attacks on policies promoting access to affordable medicaitons abroad violates international human rights obligations.”

So if we’re going to argue over “international obligations” (which I tend to find to be a red herring in most cases), and two sets are conflicting… which are more important? International obligations on human rights? Or the ones protecting a few big conglomerates from competition?

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Comments on “Human Rights Groups Complain About Special 301 Process”

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cc (profile) says:


Good thing we have YOU to put him in his place then, because YOU know exactly what you’re talking about. Right, Pink Coward?

It seems to me you are comparing the objectivity of an internet blog with the objectivity of an official .gov report. A blog can be as subjective as it likes, no problem. When a .gov report is as subjective as a blog, we have a problem, non?

Ryan says:

Re: IP

Somewhere along the line someone convinced the government that whatever is good for business is good for America

Which is almost completely true; problem is, the government is not convinced of this and has generally done exactly the opposite. What the government has done for “business” is really anti-business and for the benefit of a few specific entities that line the Obama administration’s (or some influential Congressman’s) pockets the highest at the expense of the public and business in general.

If the government were actually friendly to businesses, it wouldn’t be so overwhelmingly pro-union, pro-tax, pro-interventionist(including IP restrictions), and so generally hostile to a free market like they are here.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: IP

You’re saying that as if Obama has been in office for the last hundred years.

The government has been favoring businesses over the people for a long time, whether its all businesses or just the ones lining the pockets of the current administration or their opponents across the aisle.

We live in a truly free market, one in which politicians provide a service to companies for a price and legislation is just a commodity to be bought and sold.

Ryan says:

Re: Re: Re: IP

The government has been favoring special interests – not just businesses – for a long time, because such is the inherent nature of big government.

Regulatory capture, cronyism, and other forms of government intervention for the furtherment of politicians’ personal interests are the antithesis of a free market. I don’t think it means what you think it means…

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:2 IP

I’m saying that “free market” means more than you think it means. A free market is one that is free from regulation. The politicians and the special interests who buy them off aren’t being regulated. This is the meta-market in which markets are bought and sold out and obsolete business models are codified with laws. Libertarians try to argue that an unregulated market would regulate itself, but an unregulated market is just a power vacuum waiting for the next greedy/clever person to exploit it.

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