USTR Only Wants To Hear From You If Some Foreign Country Isn't Maximalist Enough

from the biasing-the-comments dept

For years, we've pointed out how ridiculous the USTR's Special 301 Report is. The report, which the USTR is required to put out each year, is basically a chance for copyright and patent maximalists to launder their complaints about certain countries through the USTR, allowing such complaints to get the official stamp of the US government, such that diplomats can pressure countries to implement really bad laws. The whole thing is a joke. Everyone admits that there is no actual objective process that the USTR uses to figure out who has been "naughty" and who has been "nice" when it comes to intellectual property laws. There is just the USTR going through submissions from copyright and patent maximalists, and deciding who has been named enough to be shamed.

Three years ago, we actually tried participating in the open comment period and submitted a comment highlighting the value of not creating a monoculture of maximalism around the globe on these issues, and why merely stamping the industry's claims as legit was probably not a good idea. The end result? The same exact crap as before. Given that this seems to be standard operating procedure for the USTR (and, it's only gotten worse with things like ACTA and TPP), I've not even bothered to submit comments any more. However, if anyone would care to try, the comment period is open through Friday... but it's interesting to note that the instructions for commenting already show that the USTR doesn't want to hear from you. It's really quite incredible. The very explanation of what they're asking for pre-supposes a whole bunch of things, and effectively says "only use this to complain about countries who haven't done enough to help your industry -- that's all we want to hear about."
USTR requests that interested persons identify those countries that deny adequate and effective protection for intellectual property rights or deny fair and equitable market access to U.S. persons who rely on intellectual property protection.
What about comments from people pointing out countries whose copyright and patent policies are too protective? Not wanted?
Written comments should include a description of the problems that the submitter has experienced and the effect of the acts, policies, and practices on U.S. industry.
Not the US public. Not on US culture. Just on US industry. Yes, the USTR is focused on industry, but the very purpose of copyright and patent law is supposed to be to benefit the public. Shouldn't their interests matter?

In other words, the USTR doesn't care about the public or your interests. All it wants to know is how it can better force other countries into over-protectionist policies that benefit a few legacy industries. You can still submit your own comments, but it seems pretty clear that they don't want to hear from you.

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  1. icon
    Ophelia Millais (profile), 7 Feb 2013 @ 4:31pm

    Re: same experience

    I think it's good that you commented, though. I know it's discouraging to be ignored, but there's a small part of me that's foolishly optimistic about the idea of submitting comments that challenge the status quo.

    Of course, the USTR is going to ignore anything along the lines of "these industries are dinosaurs that deserve to die." You'd have to frame it more like "Here's something good for American business." In other words, for your comment to even be looked at by anyone who matters, you'll have to dole out free advice on how U.S. IP-dependent industries can remain competitive and benefit more by embracing something less than the typical maximalist policies and philosophies they've advocated in the past.

    I would trot out examples of industries that do very well without maximum protection from unwanted competition (bottled water, fashion, and subscription TV are among my favorites) and examples of industries that flourish despite rampant illegal competition (like pretty much the entire entertainment industry). Are we to believe that prices would go down if only piracy could be stopped?

    I'd also point out the ways that copyright/patent/trademark maximalism and finger-pointing hinders and discourages innovation, concentrates influence and commerce into a handful of multinational corporations, undermines culture and public confidence in IP in general, and makes American IP-based industry less competitive and less profitable.

    It's probably still just pissing in the wind, but at least someone representing the public interest would be on record.

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