New IP Watchlist Ranks Countries On How Well Their Copyright Laws Serve The Public

from the alternative-to-the-special-301 dept

We’ve written plenty about the absolutely ridiculous Special 301 Report put out each year by the USTR. It’s a list that the US uses to name and shame countries that it considers “naughty” when it comes to not passing intellectual property laws that the US likes. Of course, there is no actual methodology behind the list. Basically, various industry groups (i.e., RIAA, MPAA, PHRMA etc.) send in their thoughts about which countries they don’t like, and the USTR magically takes their complaints and produces the list. This leads to bizarre things like naming Canada one of the worst of the worst, despite having stricter copyright laws than the US already.

Consumers International has decided that there’s no reason that the USTR gets to have all the fun, so it’s been releasing its own IP Watchlist ranking countries based on how pro- or anti-consumer local IP laws. In other words, Consumer International judges IP laws around the globe based on IP’s actual purpose: to benefit the public. The actual report (pdf and embedded below) is a good read.

The US actually does fairly well. We’re helped along by the fact that we actually have things like “fair use” in the law. The UK, however, comes in near the bottom. The report also highlights the ridiculousness of pushing stronger enforcement in some of the poorest countries in the world:

Malawi is a politically-troubled, least-developed country where more than half of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day. One would have thought that IP enforcement should take a back seat in such a country, in favour of measures designed to ensure the satisfaction of the population’s basic needs of food, water, clothing, shelter, and medical care.

Yet Malawi was one of four poor countries in which Interpol chose to conduct an anti-counterfeiting campaign in 2009, and in which the local police often join IP-holder organisations in conducting copyright raids against local traders. Is this noholds-barred, developed-country model of IP protection and enforcement truly the most appropriate model for countries like Malawi?

It’s worth noting, by the way, that the top three countries on Consumer International’s list — Israel, Indonesia and India — were also on the USTR’s Special 301 “Priority Watch List” as having the worst IP regimes last year. But, as Consumer International shows, they actually have the best IP regimes when it comes to serving the needs of the public. That seems to show just how ridiculous the USTR’s Special 301 list really is.

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Comments on “New IP Watchlist Ranks Countries On How Well Their Copyright Laws Serve The Public”

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Anonymous Coward says:

” Is this noholds-barred, developed-country model of IP protection and enforcement truly the most appropriate model for countries like Malawi?”

Much of the difference between rich and poor countries falls in the areas of getting “freedom from want”. Underlying many of their ills is a lack of respect for the law, a sort of mentality of circumstances dictating the way you do things.

Many of these countries never flourish because they are unable to get over the hump, never able to get thriving real businesses into place. It’s where micro-loan groups have often made the difference, helping people get legit and real businesses going even in the poorest of nations.

Is an all out IP struggle good for a poor country? Historically we know the answer is no, because it’s often the act of ignoring the rights of others outside of the country that lets them grow more quickly. Yet at the same time, many of the poorest countries stay that way in part due to a lack of respect for the law – from the top to the bottom of the country – thieving dictators and elected officials at one end, and street corner thugs at the other.

There is no perfect answer, but there is never an answer that says “ignore the rule of law”. That may be one of the areas that separates the richer from the poorer countries in the world.

PaulT (profile) says:


I think what he means is that, as odious as the DMCA is, there are at least safe harbour and other protections as well as technical provisions to allow exception to be added on a regular basis (although it’s debatable whether these really happen in practice). So, while no DMCA would definitely be better, the US still has it good compared to countries with no such protections, especially when you combine this with the first amendment.

Jake (profile) says:


Your comments assume that the “rule of law” is an universal constant. You are talking about a sovereign nation that makes its own laws, the premise of the comments about Malawi was whether or not that they should enact those laws in the first place. You assume that by having less strict IP laws that it leads to a situation where the “rule of law” is not followed, when in reality if the law does not exist in a country, whether people follow the mythical law or not is irreverent.

You can argue that there are international laws, but from the state of things today those are really more of suggestions.

Anonymous Coward says:

it’s about time something like this was released. there ought to be a lot more as well. anything that has proof that counters the ridiculous outpourings of the entertainment industries has got to be seen as a good thing. the industries have things too much their own way. they get to put out interviews on tv or reports in the press, but the anti-copyright groups are never given the ‘time of day’!

Bengie says:


The irony is the worst countries are the worst because of USA propaganda and extortion.

I fail to see how safe harbor helps the average citizen when the company hosting the data caves in from legal threats, which immediately removes free-speech in a free market sense.

I do understand that the 1st Amend only applies to the government, but in this case, a 3rd party has monopolistic government granted powers, with which it threatens another company to remove another person’s free-speech.

So the government has given copyright holder’s government backed powers to squash free-speech. I don’t see how this isn’t a breach of the 1st amendment.

PaulT (profile) says:


“I fail to see how safe harbor helps the average citizen when the company hosting the data caves in from legal threats, which immediately removes free-speech in a free market sense.”

Indeed. The problem is with the way these protections are enforced rather than the protections themselves (e.g. take down demand from one 3rd party to another, no facility for countermeasure, defence or verification of claim before it’s taken down, incentive for service provider to blindly obey rather than challenge). The concept’s there in theory, but the current implementation favours the copyright holder rather too much.

“I don’t see how this isn’t a breach of the 1st amendment.”

I’m no legal scholar, so I can only guess. My take on this whole thing is that even if such defences can be hard to mount, at leas they’re there in the first place. As many Americans are keen to point out, most other countries don’t have free speech codified into law in any way similar to the first amendment. We can argue long and hard about how much free speech is practised in reality, but for the purposes of this study at least some protections are there.

urza9814 says:


The confusion I believe is due to the fact that this report is about what the law actually says, while what you read on Techdirt is about how the law is used. Fair use, for example — it’s still technically law, but anyone who tries to apply it gets sued and generally would go bankrupt defending themselves even if they were able to win. So sure, we have decent copyright laws — but that doesn’t really matter. The bullying tactics most commonly used by the rights holders don’t really depend on those laws.

Anonymous Coward says:


“incentive for service provider to blindly obey rather than challenge”

Not exactly true here Paul. There is plenty of incentive for a service provider to side with their clients, if their clients are in the right. The real issue these days is that most service providers have no idea who their clients are, have no way to communicate to them, and in the end, they have to follow the law because they have no way to know the true legal standing of the material subject to the DMCA notice.

As for the first amendment, Lessig has been grinding that ax for more than a decade, and every time he gets near court with it, the judges generally send him packing. Even though Mike may allude to it from time to time, there is really no legal contradiction between copyright and free speech, any more than there is a contradiction between property rights and the constitution.

You have to basically accept and understand that free speech, no matter how free, is still not unlimited or without restriction, as all rights must stand up to the test of how they affect and influence those rights as applied to others. It’s the old “your rights stop at my nose” or the tired but still servicable “FIRE” in the theater example. Your free speech rights are not unlimited and not without restriction. The protections granted are not greater than the rights granted to others.

PaulT (profile) says:


Ah, so you’ll just fling out a few excuses and pretend that everything is OK because people you don’t care about are destroyed in favour of the corporate dollar. Same as ever, move along…

The are a great many examples of where DMCA notices have taken down material from people who are well-known to the service provider, so don’t try that rubbish, either. The fact is that most companies have a great incentive to obey DMCA notices blindly, because the cost of even questioning the validity of the claim is too high. If there wasn’t why do you think the perjury penalty in the DMCA has never been applied (to my knowledge) despite the many, many examples of false takedown notices?

Anonymous Coward says:


I don’t know that the U.S. government really cares too much about how much the 99% like or hate them…keep in mind that, despite the fact that we support the government in a plethora of ways (whether we want to or not), we are meaningless peons to the political suits and powers-that-be. A massive upheaval, aka revolution, is needed to topple the control-freaks in Washington. The entire government needs to be wiped clean and restocked with new blood throughout, and let’s not even begin to think about the revision of policy that’s 400 years overdue. Until then, news like CISPA’s eventual passage, in this form or some other, will be commonplace…complaints on a Web site are just as meaningless as we are to our government unless ALL of us take our voices, opinions, and demands for true progress and change to places and people that matter.

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