Time To Change (Or Ditch) The USTR Special 301 Process That Pressures Other Countries To Adapt US IP Laws

from the get-rid-of-it dept

A few days ago, you may remember, I posted the comments I submitted to the USTR on the Special 301 report, where I pointed out the value of allowing countries to set their own intellectual property policy, rather than forcing everyone to follow US faith-based intellectual property policy. Traditionally, the Special 301 process was a way for industry lobbyists to get the US gov't to put countries they didn't like on a special "watch list," that would lead US diplomats, who didn't even understand the lack of factual basis for the report, to start putting pressure on other countries to change their intellectual property policies to make them more draconian (funny, isn't it, that they only went in one direction?). Basically, lobbyists would submit the details of countries whose IP policies they didn't like, and the USTR would basically turn around and put out a list based on what was submitted, with little effort to actually look at the situation. This year, at least, the public was able to submit comments (such as mine, linked above), but it's unclear how much of an impact that will have.

In the meantime, EFF and Public Knowledge have teamed up to ask the USTR to change the process and, at the very least, stop taking the word of industry lobbyists as if it were gospel. They also suggested that the USTR be more flexible in allowing countries to set their own IP policy -- noting, amusingly, that the US itself famously didn't implement its "international obligations" in the Berne Treaty for decades, because the country felt differently about certain aspects of copyright law. Hell, even today we're not in full compliance with Berne. But for some reason the USTR acts as if other countries need to fall in line with US IP policy, even as we've chosen to go in a different direction when we felt it was warranted.

Of course, the best thing to do isn't to change the Special 301 process, but to ditch it entirely. It serves no reasonable purpose and has been abused by industry representatives for years. It puts a strain on US relations with other countries, and harms the ability for other countries to craft IP policy in the way that they feel will best serve culture and innovation.

Filed Under: copyright, eff, public knowledge, special 301, ustr
Companies: eff, public knowledge


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2010 @ 7:12pm

    Re: Best of luck....

    "This isn't about exerting American influence, its about asserting industry influence. Once you have an American style industrial presence in every strategically important country in the world, then govt. becomes a backseat player to business. And once that happens, it's global fascism realized."

    It's difficult for special interest groups to scam the public in the long run, such scams only work in the short run. Heck, a more recent example than even the do not call registry that I've mentioned before is the example that people have given about Germany. Recently people were required to pay a tax to some agency in Germany to give away free CC music. But that requirement was eventually abolished as the public would not tolerate it. By pushing for all these insane laws they are only accelerating public outrage against IP which will likely eventually lead to the complete destruction of IP as a historical memory reflecting how bad IP laws are and how they caused so many social problems once upon a time. The thought of reinstating IP laws will seem preposterous one day, much like the thought of reinstating many of the past social and governmental/legal norms of the past seem today.

    Just like technological advancement, social advancement is inevitable. But it does require the public to be active in the process, broken laws don't just destroy themselves.

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