IP Czar: Blame China! Congress: Do Something!

from the political-theater dept

In what looks like a big round of political theater, US IP Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel presented to a Congressional committee her plans for fighting copyright infringement overseas, and it seems to boil down to “blame China.” Apparently, all of the elected officials were on board with that, and then asked what to do… to which Espinel provided the same answer that US officials have always given: put pressure on the Chinese to respect US intellectual property. How’s that been working so far? Exactly. It’s a plan for handwaving — which, honestly, might really be the best thing. China really doesn’t care what the US has to say about IP policy, and US lawmakers know this. They also know that the US needs China more than China needs the US right now. That’s why suggestions made by some politicians — such as Rep. Ted Poe about blocking visas for Chinese students and tourists — was dismissed out of hand by others:

Rep. Bill Delahunt… responded to Poe’s argument that we should reduce the number of student visas for China by pointing out this would harm people in his state.

He said many of those would-be students from China attend schools in New England. Not only that, but the families of these students visit, which helps Massachusetts’ business people.

The fact is that waving arms about China ignoring IP isn’t going to do anything. It’s all just a big political exercise, and it’s pretty meaningless. The supposed “harm” has been seriously overblown by companies, and the ability to do something about it is miniscule. If we really wanted to “respond” to Chinese disrespect for US intellectual property, we should be helping companies (1) compete better and (2) adapt to use the situation to their advantage. Instead, we get political grandstanding that won’t help anyone.

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Comments on “IP Czar: Blame China! Congress: Do Something!”

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Richard (profile) says:

Student Visas

Poe’s argument that we should reduce the number of student visas for China

Speaking as a UK academic:

Please please please do this. We look forward to many more students from China if the US blocks them.

(They pay bigger fees than home students and we will be able to sidestep the government’s public spending cuts if we recruit more of them.)

Anonymous Coward says:

The U.S. put themselves in a inglorious position.

Time and time again, committee members asked Espinel how she was going to penalize or punish countries that refused to do anything to protect American intellectual property and time and time again, Espinel offered generalities or ticked off traditional strategies that have yielded mixed results.

Punish and penalize has been the principal tool of foreign affairs for the U.S. for decades, it surely showing results now. It worked wonders, just see how people are buying “Made in U.S.A.” products all over the world now.

chris (profile) says:

why not push china on something else?

i caught this little tidbit from “rip: a remix manifesto”:

“Maybe we should have forgotten intellectual property rights internationally,” says Bruce Lehman, U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property for President Clinton, in the recent documentary Rip! A Remix Manifesto, “and gone for labor standards and the environment.”

(i go the quote from here but the article is only slightly relevant)

you can hand wave and finger point all you want about ip law, but the fact of the matter is that not enough gets made in the US anymore. making stuff is how you solve the jobs problem, the economy problem… just about every problem, really.

sure you can “design by apple in california” but the real way to help the US compete is to push the rest of the world to adopt laws that bring them up to the same level as the US when it comes to manufacturing, like labor and environmental standards, and not intellectual property law, which honestly is an attempt to regulate something that simply cannot be regulated. that way overseas manufacturing competes with american manufacturing on a level playing field, and some of that manufacturing will come back to the US.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: why not push china on something else?

Indeed – IP law tends to increase income inequality because it is effectively a privately levied tax for the benefit of a few rich individuals.

In doing so it tends to reduce economic activity and make everything more expensive and less competitive in world markets.

IP law is one of the reasons why US/European production can’t compete with China.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re: why not push china on something else?

IP law tends to increase income inequality because it is effectively a privately levied tax for the benefit of a few rich individuals.

i think this particular issue is more basic than the evils of ip laws. it’s a question of the US being able to continue in the manner to which its people and government have become accustomed.

not making things domestically is a big deal for the sustainability of this country.

IP law is one of the reasons why US/European production can’t compete with China.

again, this is a much larger issue than IP law. china didn’t come in and steal our manufacturing sector, we paid them to take it off our hands.

we entered into an agreement that china isn’t going to honor. and the problem won’t remain confined to china. there is also brazil, india, and russia in the near future, and god know who else after that.

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