US Government Praises Italy For Implementing SOPA Features The US Public Vehemently Rejected

from the questions-to-ask dept

It’s no secret that the USTR has been pushing for copyright maximalist policies over the past few years (mostly done by a guy who recently went through the revolving door to become an MPAA lobbyist). However, one thing they keep claiming is that they’re only looking to get other countries to match existing US laws, rather than expand them. That’s clearly untrue if you look through the actual language being negotiated (only available via leaks). But, even so, it’s pretty clear that the USTR is pushing an extreme maximalist approach. Last week, it released its latest Special 301 report, in which it names which countries are “naughty” about intellectual property. “Naughty” is not defined by any objective standard. Rather, the USTR asks various industry lobbyists to tell them which countries they dislike the most, and the USTR rewrites it into the list. The Special 301 process has long been a complete joke that even many maximalists recognize as silly (we heard the former head of the US Copyright Office once mock it).

The latest version of the report is more of what we’ve come to expect in previous reports. China has been naughty. India and Spain have been called out of class for a special extra review. Blah blah blah. But, it also notes that both Italy and the Philippines were removed from the Watch List “in recognition of their intellectual property rights accomplishments.” Both countries have certainly become much more aggressive on copyrights recently — and they’ve done so by being a lot more aggressive than the US. In fact, as we’ve been reporting, Italy made a dangerous move to allow an administrative agency to issue censorship bans on websites without any judicial process. And, in fact, it’s already begun issuing questionable death sentences on sites, forcing ISPs to block access.

If this sounds like the approach originally considered in SOPA (actually, it’s going even further than that), that was then massively rejected by the public, you’d be exactly right. So you would think that the USTR would, perhaps, chastise Italy for such an abuse of intellectual property for censorship in a manner that the American public (who the USTR is supposed to represent) have rejected. But, nope. The USTR praises this very approach:

Italy is removed from the Watch List in the 2014 Special 301 Report in recognition of the Italian Communications Regulatory Authority’s (AGCOM) adoption, on December 12, 2013, of long-awaited regulations to combat copyright piracy over the Internet.

In other words, here you have the USTR basically admitting that it approves of countries moving to an approach even more extreme than SOPA. Of course, the reality here is pretty transparent. If Italy and others implement SOPA, down the road, it can be negotiated into various international agreements, so that the US will claim that it has to implement SOPA to “comply with our international obligations.” It’s been done before. That’s exactly how we got the DMCA. Congress initially rejected it, and so Bruce Lehman specifically went to WIPO to get the DMCA put into the 1996 Copyright Treaty… and, voila, two years later Congress said it had to pass the DMCA to comply with that treaty.

The USTR has long been a supporter of maximalist policies. Praising Italy for implementing an even more extreme version of SOPA just highlights how little concern the USTR has for the interests of the American public. Instead, it appears almost entirely focused on the interests of the most powerful lobbyists (who, not surprisingly, are also the USTR employees’ likely future employers).

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Comments on “US Government Praises Italy For Implementing SOPA Features The US Public Vehemently Rejected”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m sure they are probably still on the list. Heck, if anything, compliance to the naughty list will encourage the USTR to keep putting more countries on that list so that they can get them to keep expanding IP law even more. IP extremists are never happy. Just look at copy protection lengths.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: The usual routine

There’s permanent, and then there’s effectively permanent.

At least in the US I doubt they’ll ever try and get the first in place due to the ‘limited times’ wording in the clause that enables copyright, but as it is they don’t need to, copyright is already effectively permanent, given nothing that is made in your lifetime will enter the public domain until decades after you die, if it ever does.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The usual routine

At least in the US I doubt they’ll ever try?

See Oren Bracha’s Commentary on the U.S. Copyright Act 1831

Perhaps it is possible to read [Noah] Webster’s demand for a legislative recognition of “the principle that an author has, by common law, or natural justice, the sole & permanent right” as an initial bargaining position. Alternatively, Webster may have been seeking merely a declaratory recognition of the perpetual nature of copyright as a natural right, while admitting that the positive legislation prescribing the “mode by which it should be ascertained, secured and enjoyed,” could impose a limited duration, albeit one which is longer than the existing one. However, the plain and most probable meaning of Webster’s early plea is that he sought, at this stage, a firm legislative recognition of perpetual copyright.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The usual routine

Oh greedy individuals and companies like that will always push for the ‘perpetual copyright’ that they feel they are ‘owed’, I merely meant that I doubt the government itself will push for perpetual copyright duration, both because it would be redundant, and because it would likely draw a bit too much attention from the public to just how insanely long copyright already is.

Anonymous Coward says:

These assholes won’t be happy until they can cut the judicial system completely out of the loop.

Alleged infringement automatically becomes actual infringement, because due process and careful deliberation are just too damn slow. Besides, the US Constitution is a hindrance to proper enforcement of the law, and, in any case, international treaties are more important.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As I said before, let it be. Make it so extreme and broken that it starts badly hurting the own companies behind these horrific laws and the economy. Make infringement a crime with capital punishment and start beheading industry execs for those infringements even the MAFIAA incurs often.

Then we’ll see how long such maximalist approach holds.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would think that some or many countries could turn the Watch List in the 2014 Special 301 Report on its tail by touting that they are honored to be on that report.
Press conference and all that, saying, “We couldn’t be more pleased to be in this report. We accept the praise of the US with pleasure.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: flip flop or whatever!!!

Supposedly there was a report in the 90s from IP Australia (the agency responsible for registrations, exemptions, etc. of trademarks and copyright), which said that in the Australian market there was little evidence that copyright was beneficial for anything other than books.

The domestic software industry was (and largely still is) either in-house or contract development, or some form of SAAS, and there copyright licences could be replaced by NDAs and basic corporate self-interest.

For periodicals, pirating articles isn’t really worthwhile – people won’t pay for stale news, and trashy magazines which just rehash each other’s content are so common that letting them just recycle articles as-is wouldn’t be any real loss to the community.

Domestic film and TV production is heavily dependent on state subsidies and local-content mandates, and even if the licence revenues from local content had to be replaced by government funding, the benefit to the balance of trade would be worth it.

Music is a funny one, because successful acts tend to go to the US or UK before they see any income from copyright, and the labels are mostly foreign-owned, so it is almost totally worthless to the Australian economy.

The report also said that even if foreign governments were to retaliate by voiding Australian copyrights, that wouldn’t do any real harm compared with the savings. However, because other trade sanctions would be applied, and they would do real harm, the recommendation was to do nothing to strengthen copyright and to try to persuade similarly-situated countries to agree to change the WIPO and WTO rules. Needless to say, the report was ignored.

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