Once Again, More State Dept. Cables Show Swedish Copyright Enforcement At The Behest Of US
from the but-of-course dept
There’s absolutely nothing surprising at all about the following, but Christian Engstrom (one of the two European Parliament Members from The Pirate Party) highlights yet another leaked State Department cable that shows that many of the copyright enforcement efforts of the Swedish government were in response to a six point checklist given to the Swedish government by the US Embassy (English translation from the original Swedish — though at the end of the Swedish post the original cable is available in English). The six point check list passed on by the embassy was almost certainly originally from US industry lobbyists. There’s nothing in this that is even remotely surprising (and hints of this had already leaked previously).
What really gets me about this is why do countries like Sweden even really care about the Special 301 Report, which is used as the main “stick” by the US Embassy. As we discuss every year, the US Trade Rep (USTR) each year puts together a silly “Special 301 Report” which lists out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice on intellectual property issues… according to US industry. The list is widely regarded as a joke by many — including within the US government. I was once at a copyright conference where people from the US Copyright Office openly mocked the Special 301 Report as being a meaningless joke. In part, that’s because it’s not based on any hard science or actual data at all. Instead, it’s written mainly based on what US industry says are problem countries… with a review from US diplomats stationed in those countries. The “leaked” cable is the US embassy in Sweden weighing in on the 2009 report.
Of course, getting on that list is somewhat meaningless. All it really means is that US diplomats will put more pressure on those countries to fix and/or change the situation in that country — which is exactly what the cable shows the US embassy was already doing in Sweden. What I don’t really understand is why Swedish officials caved so easily. Canada has been in the same position for years, with US industry making up completely bogus and totally unsubstantiated claims about how Canada is a “haven” for copyright infringement, despite the fact that Canada’s copyright laws are much more stringent than the US’s in many ways. While some Canadian politicians have pushed for new copyright reform, the attempt two years ago that was almost certainly written by US industry got shot down. However, what’s really interesting is that Canada responds each year to the Special 301 report by noting its ridiculously flawed methodology and pointing out that it’s purely a political list, and not one to be concerned about.
What’s unfortunate is that Sweden did not do the same, but that its government pretty much folded. Of course, what’s amusing is that the undertones of this cable, and previous cables on this issue suggest that Swedish politicians know that the public absolutely does not support them in pushing this “made in America” approach to copyright law. But, for whatever reason, they still seem to feel compelled to follow through with it. What I don’t quite understand is why that is? I would guess the concern is trade sanctions by the US against Sweden, which is the undercurrent of all of the Special 301 threats, but at some point the Swedish government should stand up for itself and not be bullied in such a manner.
I normally do not list out political parties of politicians on this blog, as it tends to drive the discussion in a political direction, rather than on the facts of the article. However, when I did this last time with a Pirate Party MEP, I was falsely accused of trying to “hide” the fact. So I’ll mention it here, in part, because (after thinking about it) I don’t think mentioning the Pirate Party leads to the same sort of political mudslinging that naming a major party creates.