USTR Special 301 Report Doesn't Even Mention Germany Trampling Fair Use
from the did-they-even-look? dept
Last week, when the USTR’s infamous Special 301 Report (pdf) came out, one of the things that I was most interested in was how the USTR would treat Germany. After all, back at the beginning of March, Germany’s lower house, the Bundestag, passed a somewhat watered-down, but still troubling, bill concerning the quoting of “snippets,” saying they would need to be licensed. The watered down part noted that “single words or the smallest excerpts” would not require a license, but no one has defined what “smallest excerpts” means. At the beginning of April, the upper house, the Bundesrat, declined to challenge the bill, effectively making it law in Germany. The text of the bill notes, in part, that:
The producer of press materials (press publisher) shall have the exclusive right to make these press materials publicly available, in whole or in part, for commercial purposes, unless it is a matter of single words or smallest text excerpts.
It shall be permissible to make quotations from a work which has already been lawfully made available to the public, provided that their making is compatible with fair practice, and their extent does not exceed that justified by the purpose, including quotations from newspaper articles and periodicals in the form of press summaries.
It is difficult to see how the German law does not violate that, and thus, it would appear that the new law is a form of a trade barrier on US companies due to improper use of intellectual property laws — which is exactly what the Special 301 report is supposed to call attention to. Of course, historically, the USTR has only used the Special 301 report to call out countries who aren’t creating strict enough copyright, patent and trademark laws — not those which have made them too strict.
So here we had a clear example where Germany had created a form of an “IP” law that went too far, beyond our trade agreements, in a clear attempt to try to create a form of a trade barrier against US companies, to block them from doing things like creating a new search engine. So how would the USTR react?
Well, apparently by ignoring the issue entirely.
The only mention of Germany in the entire report is the following:
U.S. industry has expressed concerns regarding the policies of several developed trading partners, including Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Korea, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, and Taiwan, on issues related to innovation in the pharmaceutical sector and other aspects of health care goods and services.
No further explanation or discussion is given. Basically, it looks like the USTR really just doesn’t much care when other countries create even stricter IP laws — or when those IP laws might impact the internet industry.