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. icon
    Richard (profile), 21 Feb 2010 @ 8:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: USTR - Special 301 report

    From Mike's comment
    "Thomas Macaulay famously argued in 1841 that we ought to be careful to only extend and expand copyright upon evidence that such an extension or expansion would, in fact, lead to greater incentives to create."
    and
    "A recent paper by economists Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf demonstrated this in rather great detail, highlighting that even as new technologies have undermined classical copyright law, there remains little evidence that this change has undermined the incentives to create."

    and

    "An even more recent study out of the UK, done by two industry economists working for PRS, the UK's performance rights collection society, also found that the overall music industry was making increasingly more money, despite the challenges of a changing market. "

    This looks like a supported argument to me.

    Also, most of the "support" in your document is simply the quoting of other peoples' opinions, whereas two of the three quotations from Mike's argument are referring to actual research data.

    Plus your document contains it's fair share of rhetoric - eg

    "The use of Special 301 by various interests to pursue specific policy goals unrelated to
    the adequate and effective protection of relevant rights delegitimizes the Special 301 process."

    (Incidentally I strongly agree with this statement - and I suspect Mike does too...)

    The main difference I can see between Mike's response and the ccia one is that his is less pompous in style.

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