Up Is Down, Night Is Day, US Pretends Protectionist, Anti-Free Trade Agreements Are 'Historic Free Trade' Treaties

from the booooooooogus dept

For some time now, we’ve been noting that the US keeps trying to force countries around the globe to put in place protectionist policies that protect American monopolies, and hilariously pretending these are “free trade” agreements. And today is no different. The White House is tooting its own horn for signing three new anti-free trade agreements today, with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, pretending that these are free trade agreements. The reality, of course, is that they are protectionist plans that will do more harm than good to US interests.

While the White House leaves this part out of its patting itself on the back, these agreements all export the worst of US copyright law to these other countries, forcing them to put in place laws that are against their own best interests, and which serve only to falsely prop up the entertainment industry’s bad business model. This is why the MPAA and the US Chamber of Commerce are cheering it on so strongly.

And, of course, this is just the beginning. The Treasury Department put out its own blog post celebrating the anti-free trade agreements as well, in which they ominously warn that things are going to get worse, as they “build on” these agreements to get the dreadful Trans-Pacific Partnership signed. As you may recall, the TPP has become the way that the US Trade Rep plans to sneak in everything that it failed to get in ACTA… and it’s being even more secretive about TPP than it was about ACTA. It’s nothing but a government handout to Hollywood. This is not “historic” and it’s not about “free trade.” It’s about protectionist anti-free trade policies that will do long term harm to US innovation and economic interests. What a disaster.

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Comments on “Up Is Down, Night Is Day, US Pretends Protectionist, Anti-Free Trade Agreements Are 'Historic Free Trade' Treaties”

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68 Comments
Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Free Trade?

indeed. and pursuing it is a terrible idea. actually, the USA is large enough that free trade Within it’s borders is probably doing more harm than good … :S

of course, there’s protectionism and protectionism. one lot encourages new industry to develop in a given location, leading to an cycle of economic growth in that city-region if properly employed. the other pointlessly cripples entire sections of the economy in every city region in the country to feed pointless monopolies or encourage dangerous over-specialisation.

guess which one governments like to use?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

” the entertainment industry is hooked up with numerous digital and streaming options that are doing very well.”

Which options?

Oh, you’re referring to the options available solely to Americans that aren’t available to most of the countries involved in ACTA? I’d love to sample them if I were allowed to…

Doesn’t sound like free trade to me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

So you’re saying that since Americans *are* hooked up, then the piracy rate in the US should be zero. Right?

I agree.

Oh wait, but it isn’t.

So shut your fucking piehole about law enforcement acting to protect artists.

What exactly is your damaged pathology? Do you work for Grooveshark or something?

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

yeesh. so much anger.

point is, the ‘entertainment industry’, at least in the form of the big corporations and associations and such like, are doing these things Badly in the USA (piracy’s never going to be Zero as long as the tech allows it, but it’s a lot lower when the customers are being served properly than when they’re not).

in many places outside the USA they’re not doing it at all. they are expressly Preventing willing customers from using these services and giving them money to access content legitimately.

and then they complain when the would-be customers pirate it instead.

honestly, digital ‘piracy’ has a hell of a lot more in common with smuggling than piracy. technology has simply caught up to the point where smuggling is as viable in the digital world as it once was (is?) in the real.

and smuggling is almost inevitably the result of either monopolies or taxation driving prices up beyond reasonable levels for what the item is compared to how much the customers need it and how much they have to spend, or of artificial barriers being put in place by outside authorities (sometimes this is legitimate, as in times of war, when it makes sense to forbid trade with the enemy. other times, it really isn’t.)

so long as there are people who find the utility/price/available resources values for a given item to be unacceptable, while still finding the product desirable, and there is an illegitimate party willing to provide the product at an acceptable price compared to it’s utility and the customer’s resources, you’re going to have smuggling, and thus ‘piracy’. (please note that a Legitimate party doing this is called a ‘competitor’, and the only reason these don’t exist on the relevant level is because they have been made illegal when various governments took the Incredibly dubious step of granting (and then perpetually expanding) monopolies to private interests. bad enough when that’s an individual human who can be held responsible for their actions, but they decided instead to grant these things just as easily to Corporations. it is impossible to meaningfully punish a corporation without destroying it. combine that with an excess of greed and a lack of good sense all around and you end up with today’s fun situation.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“So you’re saying that since Americans *are* hooked up, then the piracy rate in the US should be zero. Right?”

Not necessarily. You certainly have more of a basis for legal measures one there’s actually a legal alternative in place, but you’re never going to get zero piracy. You never had zero piracy before the internet either.

Most of the “pirate” services are located outside of the US. They’re set up to service demand in every other country in the world. If you want them to stop servicing the US, you might want to consider servicing the demand around the rest of the world as well. You seem to concentrate solely on attacking the supply chain – you need to address the demand as well. On a technical level, this is an incredibly easy thing to do.

“What exactly is your damaged pathology?”

I’m not the one swearing and acting like a child, yet again. You seem to do this every weekend – breaking down and start acting like an idiot. I have to wonder why.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Because they forget what business they are in. Entertainment is an action, so they are in the service business. That doesn’t preclude them from offering products. Their problem is that they decided to sell infinite goods as the product. If they’d realize the services they could offer (which are extremely difficult to pirate) and then decided to sell scarce goods, they could really increase their revenues and profits. Instead, they want to continue to sell the infinite because it means their marginal costs are zero. They forget though, that anyone else can acquire those same infinite goods for the same marginal cost of zero.

Theater is a good example of this. How many times have I seen Fiddler on the Roof? Significantly more than zero times. How much would I pay to see it live if it ever came to my city? Significantly more than zero. Sure someone could tape the theater performance and pass that around. In fact, some one made it into a movie, which I’ve seen lots of times. Holy angels in heaven above though, if that play came near me, I’d still by a ticket, and you put Topol in the cast, and I’d probably go to more than one showing.

Like I said, entertainment is an action, which is a service, and services are hard to pirate. You want products to sell? That depends on the audience. Fiddler on the Roof could have signed-by-the-cast sheet music. On the other hand, Pixar’s Cars sold an estimated $5 billion in merchandise. Why in the world Hasbro let Disney buy Pixar, I’ll never know. They made it for $120 million, it raked in $460 million world wide in the theaters. Right there, you just got paid 4 times over for your advertisement (is this where I bring up content is advertising is content?) and we haven’t even started talking about the money you get from the merchandise.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: @"Chosen Reject": YEAH, BUT without copyright, what's to stop anyone from duplicating follow-on products?

“Pixar’s [copyrighted] Cars sold an estimated $5 billion in [licensed] merchandise.” — Clarified that for you.

You’re basically living in the past when the Chinese couldn’t knock off merchandise and ship it over while it’s still hot. Technology has moved on in that area too. SO, without copyright, how do you propose to stop whoever from doing that, edging out the higher priced “official” items? — I rule out trademark as a slow legal process, unless you want to propose that mere accusations should be enough; I’m sure you see the similarity to current attempts to enforce copyright…

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: @"Chosen Reject": YEAH, BUT without copyright, what's to stop anyone from duplicating follow-on products?

OK, you caught me. My plan does not include monopolies, and certainly not government granted ones. My plan involves lowering the cost of entry of competitors. My plan involves companies having to compete with each other. My plan involves companies having to earn the dollar of their customers, not consumers. My plan involves the presumption of innocence and due process. The horror!! I’ve been found out.

I’m sorry you disagree with all of these things.

Also, you missed all that talk about services, which are hard to pirate, and not easy to duplicate (see Netflix and Redbox in the face of Amazon, Walmart, and Blockbuster).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: @"Chosen Reject": YEAH, BUT without copyright, what's to stop anyone from duplicating follow-on products?

“You’re basically living in the past when the Chinese couldn’t knock off merchandise and ship it over while it’s still hot”

Really? You’re saying this wasn’t possible just a few years ago when Cars was released?

What colour IS the sky on your planet, anyway?

Rekrul says:

Re: Re:

Why is the entertainment industry’s business model bad? I haven’t ever seen that claimed before.

Because technology has moved on and they haven’t.

With today’s technology, there’s no technological reason why a movie studio couldn’t digitize its entire catalog of movies and offer the files for sale on the net. You will NEVER see this happen, mostly because copyright has become such a huge mess, it’s virtually impossible to offer even half the movies in their vaults for sale in digital formats without lengthy and expensive licensing deals.

With today’s technology, there’s no reason that anyone should miss an episode of a TV show ever again. It would be trivial for the cable companies to record each show and offer an on-demand stream for up to a week after the show airs. You’ll never see this happen either, due to the same copyright mess. Instead, everyone has to pretend that once a show airs, it can only be watched from a few, select sources, offered to certain locations, with all sorts of restrictions.

In the past, differing TV standards mostly kept you from watching movies bought from another country, unless you also had a VCR and TV from that country. Today’s TV and DVD players should be capable of playing discs from any country, but instead they’re saddled with region codes to prevent you from importing your own movies, even if said movies aren’t available in your home country.

The entertainment industry has fought every new technology, tooth and nail. VCRs, Digital Audio Tape, MP3 players, CD burners, P2P file sharing.

This should be the golden age of entertainment, but instead the entertainment industry wants to pretend that it’s still the 1990s, forcing people to buy CDs/DVDs/Blu-Rays, subscribe to cable, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m afraid you’ve lost me; DVD and Bluray are digital. Do you mean streaming? I know there are a lot of TV shows and movies streaming on Netflix.

The entertainment industry’s business model seems pretty solid to me: people flock to theaters to see popular movies, watch movies at home all the time, etc.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

streaming’s a joke in large parts of the world still, of course.

that said, it doesn’t matter that DVDs and Bluray are Digital, they’re a physical media that the various companies seem inordinately attached to, to the point of making rather irrational decisions which shoot their profit making ability in the foot rather than even entertain the vague notion that it any given change in the plan Might involve reducing how much money comes in from, and effort is expended upon, shiny plastic discs, when they could be making more money Over All by getting their heads out of their arses and embracing the opportunities provided by modern tech in terms of marketing and distribution, and by understanding, and adapting to, the fact that the way people see their business has changed, rather than wasting time and money on activities that active alienate their customer base fighting those changes.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: @"Rekrul": re "golden age of entertainment":

“With today’s technology, there’s no reason that anyone should miss an episode of a TV show ever again.”

Way back in the dark ages of 2004, I had a TV tuner card that recorded, would even power-up the computer. I may not even have been the first in my neighborhood to have such. If you don’t now, it’s not the cable company’s fault.

“It would be trivial for the cable companies to record each show and offer an on-demand stream for up to a week after the show airs. You’ll never see this happen either, due to the same copyright mess.”

No, it’s not copyright there, but /advertising/. They want to have audiences looking at advertisements and to know it. That’s why Tivo tracks / reports exactly what you view.

Next out of order, more complex:
“With today’s technology, there’s no technological reason why a movie studio couldn’t digitize its entire catalog of movies and offer the files for sale on the net.”

YES, BUT it’s also facilitate piracy, particularly as I expect you’d want them DRM-free. Pals would get together and one buy this movie, another that, a third yet another, and so on. A gang of only ten materially reduces the income from that. — And the movie studios ARE selling scarcity: you just don’t care for the way they do it. So I don’t think that it’s all bad effects from copyright, it’s just the “business model” that “dinosaurs” like.

You can’t really do much to change “dinosaurs”, they’re quite stubborn. And fact is, they not only own but control the content, you don’t really have a say except by withholding money and attention.

I commend that course to you, because… “This should be the golden age of entertainment” presumably means lying on the couch in a mental fog watching ridiculous fantasies and various propaganda while stuffing yourself with beer and food. Movies and TV are not my notion of entertainment, so can’t join you in the wish for such a “golden age”…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: @"Rekrul": re "golden age of entertainment":

I think they’re trying to say that because something can be infinitely digitized, that it can’t be considered a reliable business anymore.

Funny, your bank balance is digitized and it seems there are laws in place to make sure it isn’t wantonly reproduced without permission…

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 @"Rekrul": re "golden age of entertainment":

actually, in the US at least, the structure is such that it Can be… but only by a few of the elite at the top of the banking structure.

it’s entirely possible (or was a few years back) for 100 dollars to be put into circulation, officially, which leads to some 10,000 plus dollars Actually circulating due to the way the banks are set up, and annoyingly i forget the rest of the details in the example (it was a while ago and i’m not an american anyway) but it ends with 100 dollars being Withdrawn from the economy again. at the end of the day the bosses at the banks Technically didn’t change anything, according to their records, everything still matches up… and yet somehow their bank accounts have gained a few million that wasn’t previously in circulation…

then there’s the whole concept of ‘interest’::
consider: the bank charges fees to pay for their services while they look after your money. they pay you interest that, unless you give them a Lot of money, is less than the fees. they then lend out your money to others, charge Them interest for it, at a much higher rate than what they give you, and pocket that interest. they get payed coming and going. (NZ has a nationally owned bank again these days, which basically charges no fees because, like every other bank, it’s income comes from lending out your money anyway.)

and let’s not even get into the joys of what happens to all those rounded fractions of cents, or the possiblities of hacking, or the complete Bullshit that is ‘identity theft’ (hint: it’s Bank Robbery.)

*facepalms*

ok, got kinda off topic.

anyway, there are laws in both the case of digital media and money. thing is, the laws in place for money make sense to the vast majority of the population and are generally benificial to the public (in some cases a bit lacking, obviously, see the nonsense made of the global economy by morally lacking traders with far too much greed and not enough sense), while the laws regarding copyright and patents are damaging, and in the case of copyright, so out of alignment with the views, logic, and best interest of the general public that they are Ignored by otherwise law abiding individuals. combine this with extreamly dubious court outcomes on related issues and dodgy dealings getting the laws passed or amended in the first place, and you actually have a situation that is not only undermining (in some cases rightfully, in others merely understandably, and in yet more inevitably) old business models, but also has great potentual to actually undermine the entire concept of the Rule of Law, as the current law only really benefits high ranking individuals in the plutocratic and bureaucratic hierarchies, and is enforced unevenly.

wow. i’m terrible at this whole ‘staying on topic’ thing. hopefully this comment is meaningful and informative to at least someone… (heck, i’d be at least as pleased, if not more so, if it encouraged someone who otherwise wouldn’t to simply think about things from a different perspective :D)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: @"Rekrul": re "golden age of entertainment":

So, if I have your post interpreted correctly: the industry should not enter the 21st century because once people have access to a legal copy of something, nobody will ever pay for anything for it again?

I’d hate to visit whatever parallel universe you seem to inhabit, but over here’s that’s not only ridiculous, but blatantly false.

“Movies and TV are not my notion of entertainment”

Then why do you spend so much of your time making ridiculous arguments to “defend” them? You certainly don’t seem to have any idea about how people who watch them actually consume the content, which explains why you spend most of your time arguing notions that actively damage the industry’s future.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re: @"Rekrul": re "golden age of entertainment":

Way back in the dark ages of 2004, I had a TV tuner card that recorded, would even power-up the computer. I may not even have been the first in my neighborhood to have such. If you don’t now, it’s not the cable company’s fault.

Sure, people can set up such a system, but it’s not guaranteed to record everything you want. Even recorders that rely on downloaded guides, can’t account for things like time-delayed programming, or wrong listings. They also can’t cope with the power going out (unless you have a backup generator. Just a short time ago, many people on the East coast lost power due to hurricane Irene. Sure, many of them had bigger concerns than missed TV shows, but for a lot of people, the only real problem they suffered was a lost of power. I only lost power for a day, but other than that, I was fine.

Also, you can’t record a show if you didn’t know it was on. What if the guide doesn’t list a show, or it lists it as a repeat, but it’s new? What if you don’t normally watch Leno, but the next day someone tells you that your favorite actor was on, talking about his new movie? How do you retroactively record it?

Besides, with today’s technology, people shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to watch TV shows. They should be able to download them to their phone or tablet to watch on the bus or subway, or maybe during their lunch break at work. Whoops, can’t do that (legally) because the entertainment industry insists that all video be locked down tight.

No, it’s not copyright there, but /advertising/. They want to have audiences looking at advertisements and to know it. That’s why Tivo tracks / reports exactly what you view.

And how would offering the network TV shows on demand be any different? They’d have the same ads in them and could be tracked. In fact, they’d get more viewers because of people who missed the show and/or forgot to record it. Not to mention the people who watched the show “live” and then decided that they wanted to see it again.

YES, BUT it’s also facilitate piracy, particularly as I expect you’d want them DRM-free. Pals would get together and one buy this movie, another that, a third yet another, and so on. A gang of only ten materially reduces the income from that. — And the movie studios ARE selling scarcity: you just don’t care for the way they do it. So I don’t think that it’s all bad effects from copyright, it’s just the “business model” that “dinosaurs” like.

You overlook one very important point; At the moment they’re making exactly $0.00 from the downloadable digital market. Pirates are encoding and distributing the movies for free without any help from the studios. Yes, the films would get pirated, but that’s happening already and the studio isn’t getting squat from it. There’s a market for downloadable digital copies of films and the studios are ignoring it. Instead of getting some money from it, they’re not getting anything.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: We have always been at war...

also ‘free trade is good for something other than reducing city-regions with less production capacity/weaker economies to functionally economically dependant colonies of their larger neighbours.’

seriously, you’d think they’d Want actual free trade… if their entertainment industry still Functioned properly they’d end up with a meaningful monopoly and economies so crippled and dependant on them for such things (and, admittedly, china for others) that they could never go against them and thus Anything could be enforced with far less hassle.

but no, monopolists and paranoia win again.

now if only it were possible to persuade the NZ government to stop pursuing economic suicide by pushing for free trade deals all over the place… (and political/cultural suicide with the stupid things tehy’re willing to do for the mearest hint of such a possiblity)

(see ‘i forget which’ large rant about the downsides of free trade some posts above.)

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

it gets worse: in most places they now functionally ARE the ‘Nobility’ (not that they’d know that in it’s adjectival form if it bit them in the arse…. possibly because words don’t usually do that, and it would be confusing) now, and, just to make things That Much Better… they’re incompetent at profiteering, too.

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