by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, europe

Europe's Copyright Strategy: Have Europeans Send As Much Money As Possible To US Companies

from the that-doesn't-make-much-sense dept

Joe Karaganis, from the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), has a fascinating blog post, in which he digs in a bit on the European approach to copyright law and notes that the end result is basically to divert as much money as possible to US interests and away from EU citizens. In typical SSRC fashion, the reasoning is pretty detailed. He looks at the audiovisual industry -- where he notes that Europe imports a hell of a lot more from the US than they export out:
About 56% of those imports ($8.35 billion) come from the US. The EU, in turn, exports about $1.7 billion to the US, resulting in a net negative trade balance of around $6.65 billion. This does not include software licenses, where US companies monopolize larger parts of the European consumer and business markets.
From there, he looks at who actually benefits from stricter enforcement, and who benefits from infringement. And it's not hard to see that it's basically the US companies who will get a massive amount of the benefit... and its EU consumers who will lose out under a stricter regime. In the end, the result is pretty clear: stricter IP enforcement in Europe will do little to "protect" European heritage and culture, and will actually serve to take away from it, and push more money to US legacy entertainment companies.
It is important to be clear about the future that the EC is promoting with its IP policies. It is not a defense of European heritage or–primarily--a vision of the French auteur able to bring his or her distinctive vision to a global audience. It’s a vision of European production companies as slightly better integrated junior partners in global Hollywood.

It’s this junior partnership that should be weighed against the wider sacrifices of privacy and freedom of speech built into so many recent national and EC-level IP enforcement policies, such as the French ’3-strikes’ plan, which will cut French citizens off of the Internet for the piracy of Hollywood productions. Strong enforcement reinforces status quo positions in the market, but at an escalating public cost as consumer behavior becomes the real focus of enforcement activities. There is nothing in these policies will alter the balance of cultural power or change the direction of payments. That’s why I’ve characterized the EC enforcement plan as: “send money to the US.”
It's important to recognize all of this, because the rationale being bandied about in Europe for greater copyright protectionism is the belief that it will actually help "protect" local culture. And yet, as Karaganis details in his post, there's little evidence to support this, and most of the evidence seems to support a result that is entirely counter to that. The deal on things like ACTA is so bad for EU interests that Karaganis wonders just what the hell happened to get the EU to be in a position where it appears to be negotiating against its own best interests. Turns out, US lobbyists are pretty good at what they do, and have convinced clueless EU bureaucrats to support their own cultural demise by having them focus on nostalgia and putting up smoke and mirrors when it comes to the actual economics:
How did Europe get here? Tellingly, there was initially little European enthusiasm for a broad trade agreement on IP in the 1980s. By most accounts, lobbying by US tech and pharmaceutical industries made the difference, capitalizing on a wider overestimation of–and nostalgia for–Europe’s role as a cultural superpower, when it was the primary beneficiary of stronger international IP laws. More narrowly, the European Commission’s IP activism can be traced to the actions of a handful of American CEOs, who convinced their European counterparts of the benefits of a global IP deal in the run-up to the WTO agreement in the 1980s. Those counterparts, in turn, applied pressure on their national governments and, through them, the EC.
One way to get out of that mess, is to take the "moral" argument out of the copyright debate, and focus in on what really matters: the economics. This is a trade discussion and morality plays no role. But the EU politicians think that this is a moral issue, while the US negotiators, at the pushing of a few key industries, has convinced the EU to sell out its own economic and cultural best interests, by pretending this is a moral debate.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2011 @ 10:22am

    Re: You've just admitted stronger enforcement brings more revenue.

    as an aside,
    and why is the automobile industry "so much" the otherway.
    Could it be because back in the day, the big US companies got the legislation they wanted to protect the way they wanted to do business but because you can't hold back innovation with legislation; they ultimately inflicted dire wounds on themselves by getting what they wanted at the time.

    Damn I just can't see a way to tie it in to the whole IP debate.

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