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

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2010 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Obama Administration Should Step Up

    ANY TIME a government official/representative discusses governmental/public policy with an entity, like a blog or a news program (ie: CNN or FOX), such information and broadcasts should be in the public domain and there should be no registration wall or paywall.

    For instance, if CNN or Fox news were to go up to Obama or the DOJ spokesperson and ask him questions regarding public policy and he were to answer and they were to broadcast it over cableco/telco infrastructure, such broadcasts should immediately be in the public domain (anything over public airwaves should be in the public domain). It's not for government officials/representatives to require the public to pay some entity some subscription fee or to register with some entity to better understand the law or how to better interpret it and what it's intended to do.

    If some non government lawyer wanted to write a law book and charge for it it's one thing, but when a government official/representative writes or discusses a law and how it should be interpreted, there should be no requirement for us to pay for that. For instance, Obama may say something like, "this law only applies to such and such, whereas the law itself may not say such a thing, and without hearing Obama's comment one might not be able to deduce how to interpret the law. In essence, Obama might indirectly be creating or altering law with his comments merely by changing the interpretation from what appears to be written down (or adding specificity which can be viewed as indirectly adding to the law). The government should should be open about the laws in place, such information should be FREE of cost and unnecessary registration from some third party, and that requires comments from government officials regarding public/private policy to be open and free just as well.

    Anything less is an unacceptable act of corruption, something the public should consider an intended attempt by government officials to require the public to pay or benefit some entity in order to properly understand the law.

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