US Begins Process Of Forcing Extreme IP Enforcement Across Africa

from the is-this-really-what-africa-needs? dept

We’ve noted a few times recently that over the last few years WIPO has at least appeared to be more receptive to views from developing nations that strict copyright and patent enforcement could do a lot more damage than good. There are actually tons of compelling economic evidence that developing countries are best off mostly ignoring IP laws as they grow. Hell, the US is example number one of a country that completely ignored foreign IP laws while it developed, much to its advantage. Of course, the US, which leads the developed countries these days, absolutely hates this concept and has taken a strong maximalist position that all countries must respect US IP laws (or go even further). A big part of the reason that ACTA was negotiated outside of WIPO was because WIPO was actually listening to countries like Brazil and India that were expressing concerns about over-enforcement and the harms it created.

However, WIPO itself has expressed concerns about this… but rather than working to convince the US that its approach is incorrect, it looks like WIPO may be going back in the other direction of supporting pure maximalism (i.e., the US agenda). Witness the ridiculous situation shaping up in Africa, where “WIPO” is organizing a “training” program about intellectual property that appears to have been entirely created by the US. It’s scheduled to take place in South Africa in April, but it’s strictly focused on enforcement and concepts that the US supports, rather than more reasoned issues about what countries in Africa actually need:

“It’s as if the last five years didn’t happen – no WIPO Development Agenda, no discussion on copyright limitations and exceptions, no proposals in favour of libraries and archives, education, blind and visually impaired people,” said Teresa Hackett, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL). “But they did happen, and we will work to ensure that delegates attending the African IP Forum hear a diversity of opinion and perspective, and have the opportunity to debate these issues that are critically important to libraries in Africa and around the world.”

People discussing it note that this meeting doesn’t appear to really be about effective intellectual property, but about setting the stage to force ACTA or ACTA-style agreements across Europe:

A particular concern of NGOs is that the conference will advance anti-counterfeiting legislation across Africa that will lead to damaging restrictions to the local populations and economies. They also raised alarm that the conference does not appear to include discussion on how to use the hard-won flexibilities that developing countries are allowed to employ so as not to apply IP rights if not in their national interest.

Furthermore, groups worried about this meeting note that the event is sponsored by private groups who have strong interests in greater IP enforcement, rather than the interests of what’s best for various African nations. Among the sponsors is the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP). From that, it’s pretty clear that the entire meeting’s goals are suspect.

If there’s going to be an effort by the international community to explore IP issues in Africa, the least they could do is acknowledge the fact that IP laws are supposed to be about what’s best for the people, not what’s best for big international corporations who want to maximize profit from African markets. But thanks to US involvement, that doesn’t seem possible.

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Comments on “US Begins Process Of Forcing Extreme IP Enforcement Across Africa”

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Rekrul says:

If there’s going to be an effort by the international community to explore IP issues in Africa, the least they could do is acknowledge the fact that IP laws are supposed to be about what’s best for the people, not what’s best for big international corporations who want to maximize profit from African markets.

IP laws haven’t been about what’s best for the people in about a century. Today they’re treated solely as protective measures for the giant corporations.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:


Hollywood camera & film, AC Power, “The Real McCoy”, sealed primer rounds (aka modern bullets), the rifle, the galleon, cannons, cloth weaving, the language (totally stolen, also see the crime of “conversion” ’cause we’re guilty of that too with the language), pizza, burritos, german sausage, champagne, scotch (aka whiskey)…

That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head, but I’m sure if somebody but some time into it the list is more readily measured in meters than inches.

Anonymous Coward says:

Citation -- US a pirate nation from 1790 to 1891

From:Pimps and Ferrets, (a reformatted PhD dissertation) pp16-17 (footnotes omitted from this citation):

“In addition to establishing a federal copyright and specifying how it was to be administered, Section 5 of the Act of 1790 intentionally established the United States as a pirate nation. The language is deceptively brief for such a far-reaching policy:

Nothing in this act shall be construed to extend to prohibit the importation or vending, reprinting or publishing within the United States, of any map, chart, book or books, written, printed, or published by any person not a citizen of the United States, in foreign parts or places without the jurisdiction of the United States.

Simply put, the U.S. would not recognize foreign copyrights, and U.S. publishers were completely free to import and/or reprint whatever foreign texts they thought would sell. Reiterated in the copyright acts of 1831 and 1870, this remained explicit U.S. policy for over a century, from 1790 until 1891.”

Marcus Carab (profile) says:


(sec. 5 in the full text [pdf] if you’re curious)

“And be it further enacted, that nothing in this act shall be construed to extend to prohibit the importation or vending, Reprinting or publishing within the United States, of any map, chart, book or books, written, printed, or published by any person not a citizen of the United States, in foreign parts or places without the jurisdiction of the United States.”

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

Let's recap...

…after years of creeping around in dimly-lit meeting rooms, gnawing away at copyright laws like squirrels on a Cheeto, IP holders – those faceless, colorless men content with fondling their copyrights and unleashing their attack dogs upon the few filthy pirates unlucky enough to get caught in the crosshairs – suddenly meet a man.

“You think too small,” this man says. “Instead of going after these theives retail, let’s kill ’em wholesale. If the laws force you to actively defend your copyrights, why then, those laws are wrong.”

Who is this mystery man? This man with a drinkers’ nose and the cold dead eyes of a cardsharp? His name is Dodd…Chris Dodd, and his message is – dare we say it – staggering in its simplicity and scope. “I speak the language of whispers and deceits,” he murmurs, “so lawmkers know me. Give me free rein and fat envelopes and I will change the shape of the world…not just America, not just Europe…the world.”

The nods and handshakes are given, the deals are struck. The new laws proceed in practised obscurity, a machinegun-spray of paper guaranteed to gut piracy, and if a few innocents get in the way, what of it? Besides, who will know? If it doesn’t get reported, it never happened.

But wait! What’s that noise? One voice, a few voices, many voices coming from that pirates’ haven, that troublesome Internet. And light! Light that shines on the deals, light that transfixes the deal-makers, light that shouldn’t be!

“Ignore them.” cautions Dodd. “Bloggers are not journalists, bloggers don’t get on the 5 o’clock news. Nobody listens to them but the rabble, they are less than the clouds. You politicians are the rock upon which piracy will be broken forever.”

A rock can ignore a few rain drops. A rock can lie unaffected in a creek. But the rock which ignores the spring thaw, denies reality.

Many voices become millions; politicians must relearn the old, old phrases of rabbits caught in the open: ‘This law isn’t ready for prime time.’ ‘Perhaps we need to reassess our position.’ ‘This proposal will be tabled for further debate.’ And the current politicians relearn the oldest lesson of all: a people may be fearful, or complacent, or indifferent, but ultimately, rulers rule by consent.

So. Where now? Do we go back to sleep? Do we become cynical and think the way things are now are how things will always be? Or do we in our millions watch, and keep watching, for those who would steal our freedoms for pennies?

TL;DR version:

Content owners froth at the mouth over piracy!
Lobbyists promise the moon!
Politicians rub hands in anticipation of huge payoffs!
The Internets find out, complain!
People rise up, virtual pitchforks in hand!
Politicians back down, laws tabled!
lolcatz lulz!

Rinse and repeat.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

In short the United States and companies and individuals in it were free to pirate work under copyright or patent law elsewhere until it became to America’s advantage not to. (The cynical are free to read into that “the best stuff was already swiped” if they wish.)

And now the maximalists in the United States want to impose maximalist rules on developing and under developed countries. I guess what was good and worked for America isn’t so good for anyone else. I’m still wondering how to convince the BRIC countries of that much less anyone else.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

In a country where there is famine it seems insane to be bothering with making sure that they have copyright models we approve of.
They have dictators robbing the people blind, but copyright trumps all.
They have warlords killing people who believe different things, but copyright trumps all.

If copyright is this wonderful magical thing, why are there still problems in the world?

Shall we drop Dodd and Sherman in the desert with their copyrights and see how well they do? At what point is enough, enough? The world has way bigger problems then a pack of whining billion/millionaires, lets work on those before we fix their imaginary problems.

Anonymous Coward says:

Out of all the problems Africans face. It is quite shocking that the U.S. decides that IP enforcement needs to be addressed. What about food and medicine, oh thats right there is no profit to be made with those issues. I saw many
africans celebrating the election of the U.S. election of a
president of african decent. I wonder how they feel now? Considering he is ramming the values of U.S. corparations down their throats.

darryl says:

More mansick crap

“Of course, the US, which leads the developed countries these days,”

Oh that is SO FUNNY,, Mansick you are such a joker !!

Would you like to detail some of the fields of endevour that the US leads ?

I guess not, it’s just too easy just to talk shit, without actually ‘you know’ supporting your claims with actual proof.

We all know you have a rather rocky relationship with reality..

So, waiting for mansick to show a few examples to support his errant claims, but as usual not expecting anything.

Anonymous Coward says:


IP laws are about what is best for the artists, yes artists are generally people, but if you cared to read your constitution you will find it specifically states that it is to protect the artists, or creaters.. by protecting their rights “FROM THE PEOPLE” for a period of time.

you’ve been drinking the mansick coolaid again, if you are going to comment on your laws, at least damn well read them.

Cry freedom says:

Wipe out

The Australian at the helm of the wipo made his pact with the US. Hell, don’t think his lip service to the Development Agenda shows his support for it. He hates it. Anyway, how does the saying go : the best place to hide is in plain sight, in this case the US is using wipo -quite strategically- to move its agenda forward. Hell, they just hired a guy from Intellectual ventures to head a unit dealing with innovation and tech transfer. Things are being done supposedly under the radar at wipo. The wipo names and Tahoe of some IP reps fromAfrican countries are also in the pockets. One of the names even appears in wiki leaks speaking with the Us to get the Aussie elected. If Africa cannot defend itself, who will, or should?

Anonymous Coward says:

"Global IP Culture"

I remember IATSE sent us something out a while bragging about how they had sent a delegation to an international convention of labor unions to give a presentation about creating a “Global IP Culture”. Seems like the presentation included some of the usual schills from BSA, MPAA, RIAA, etc.. Not too happy that my union dues are being used to support what is likely one sided propaganda. There needs to be balance in this discussion. If you are a union member, write to your leaders.

Robert says:


South Africa has a problem with people hijacking buildings. Actual multi storey apartment buildings. These building hijackers start charging the tenants money and keep the actual owners from retaking control.
The police apparently do not much of anything. If you want policing you have to privately hire one of the privatised security/protection forces.
So as the owner of the building you hire a small private army to seize control of the building kick out everybody and physically keep them out by maintain a standing guard.
South Africa has a problem with keeping actual real property safe and the totally insane US government is sending over a team to control copying of CDs, totally crazy.
South Africa number one rape capital of the world and their worried about some drunken drugged up minstrel’s publisher’s licensing fees, now that’s truly sick (well done Hilary Clinton, I’m sure your proud now).

HumbleForeigner (profile) says:

Dear USA

Can I ask on behalf of the rest of the world, please go home.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some of you seem quite nice. But, what we mainly see are your tourists, and your insane laws…and honestly, the tourists are nicer.

We don’t really need your “Free Trade Agreements”, we were doing quite well thank you. We don’t need your SOPA or PIPA. We don’t need your ACTA or TPP (you really need to stop infecting international treaties and so on with your brand of “Intellectual Property” madness).

In conclusion, please go home and put your own house in order, it really needs your attention.

The Rest Of the World

Niall (profile) says:


So where are ‘corporations’ mentioned in the Constitution? How does “95 years from publishing or 120 years from creation or Life of Author + 70 years” equate to ‘For a Limited Time’, especially when you look at lifespans in the 1700s?

Actually, if Mike were to market some “coolaid” I’d certainly buy some. I’d love to help my ‘coolness’. 😉 Just don’t do it in grape! (blech)

Niall (profile) says:

Dear USA

“Stop downloading the creative output we stole from the artists without compensating them or bore yourself into a drooling stupor watching and listening only to the low-grade content we claim to have created and are enforcing with ridiculously over-broad laws, and are now trying to foist on your country which has its own unique culture and laws.”


John says:

Very disappointed!

“groups worried about this meeting note that the event is sponsored by private groups who have strong interests in greater IP enforcement, rather than the interests of what’s best for various African nations.”

Ok, so instead of spending money to alleviate starvation, poverty, diseases, refugee problems, and other urgent issues in Africa, the US is spending money on IP enforcement? That’s just doesn’t sit right with me. Very disappointed with the USA.

Anonymous Coward says:



Patents clearly do not have extra-territorial effect, as has been declared by our federal courts time and time again. Hence, I am left wondering just what foreign patents are being talked about. It they were issued in country X, not in the US, and persons in the US limited their activities to US territory, then there is nothing to complain about.

BTW, and quite unlike much of copyright, if an inventor wishes to secure patents in multiple countries, the inventor must file patent applications in each of those countries. There is no such thing as a “good everywhere in the world” patent.

Anonymous Coward says:

Citation -- US a pirate nation from 1790 to 1891

It would have been nice and informative to mention that in that timeframe copyright was limited in all countries having such laws to its nationals creating works in-country.

It was not until the 1850’s or so that France suggested perhaps foreign authors should be granted domestic rights in order to secure reciprocal treatment for french authors.

This suggestion did not coalesce until the Berne Convention.

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