USTR Tells China To Do 'Spot Checks On Libraries' To Make Sure They're Not Violating Copyrights
from the really-now? dept
We’ve seen before that the USTR’s infatuation with copyright and patent maximalism is both unsettling and dangerous to the economy. But at times it just gets bizarre. The USTR’s latest report to Congress about China obviously lists “intellectual property” enforcement as a “top priority” because that’s what the USTR always does. Of course, as we’ve pointed out in the past, China seems to understand intellectual property a hell of a lot better than US officials. That is, it recognizes that intellectual property is a form of control and a type of trade barrier — and every time the US pushes it to upgrade its enforcement or “respect” for intellectual property, it should come as no surprise that the end result is China punishing US companies while favoring Chinese ones.
And, ridiculously, the USTR continues to play right into the hands of Chinese officials on this front, who must be laughing maniacally every time they see the USTR release one of these reports, giving them even more ammo to slap American companies and promote their own.
But, the USTR report gets even more ridiculous the deeper you read. Matthew Rimmer noticed an insane little tidbit on page 112, in which the USTR talks about how it encourages China to do “spot checks” on libraries to make sure they’re obeying US copyright law. I’m not kidding.
In October 2009, the NCA, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture and the National Anti-Pornography Office issued the Notice on Strengthening Library Protection of Copyright, which directs libraries to strictly adhere to the disciplines of the Copyright Law. The United States welcomed this directive and encouraged China to take steps to enforce this notices, including through unannounced spot checks of libraries and promptly investigating and taking action against web-based enterprise that provide pirated journal articles. Subsequently, at the December 2010 JCCT meeting, China committed to take steps to eradicate piracy of online academic journals, including actions against web-based enterprises.
This is quite incredible on multiple levels. First, the very fact that this involves the “National Anti-Pornography Office” should have made it pretty clear that the Chinese recognize what copyright can be used as: a tool for widespread censorship and control. And the people at the USTR are so focused on maximalism that it doesn’t even seem to have occurred to them that this is what’s going on. In fact, they actually are encouraging the Chinese government to use this as a tool for censorship! Incredible. And incredibly short-sighted.
Then there’s this focus on academic journals. As if libraries in China are actually going to pay the insane rates that journals charge? This isn’t lost money. Remember, the original purpose of copyright law was to encourage better learning and the wider dissemination of knowledge. And here you have the USTR actively seeking to restrict that, while helping give the Chinese all the justification they need for widespread censorship of the internet.