USTR Tells China To Do 'Spot Checks On Libraries' To Make Sure They're Not Violating Copyrights

from the really-now? dept

We've seen before that the USTR's infatuation with copyright and patent maximalism is both unsettling and dangerous to the economy. But at times it just gets bizarre. The USTR's latest report to Congress about China obviously lists "intellectual property" enforcement as a "top priority" because that's what the USTR always does. Of course, as we've pointed out in the past, China seems to understand intellectual property a hell of a lot better than US officials. That is, it recognizes that intellectual property is a form of control and a type of trade barrier -- and every time the US pushes it to upgrade its enforcement or "respect" for intellectual property, it should come as no surprise that the end result is China punishing US companies while favoring Chinese ones.

And, ridiculously, the USTR continues to play right into the hands of Chinese officials on this front, who must be laughing maniacally every time they see the USTR release one of these reports, giving them even more ammo to slap American companies and promote their own.

But, the USTR report gets even more ridiculous the deeper you read. Matthew Rimmer noticed an insane little tidbit on page 112, in which the USTR talks about how it encourages China to do "spot checks" on libraries to make sure they're obeying US copyright law. I'm not kidding.
In October 2009, the NCA, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture and the National Anti-Pornography Office issued the Notice on Strengthening Library Protection of Copyright, which directs libraries to strictly adhere to the disciplines of the Copyright Law. The United States welcomed this directive and encouraged China to take steps to enforce this notices, including through unannounced spot checks of libraries and promptly investigating and taking action against web-based enterprise that provide pirated journal articles. Subsequently, at the December 2010 JCCT meeting, China committed to take steps to eradicate piracy of online academic journals, including actions against web-based enterprises.
This is quite incredible on multiple levels. First, the very fact that this involves the "National Anti-Pornography Office" should have made it pretty clear that the Chinese recognize what copyright can be used as: a tool for widespread censorship and control. And the people at the USTR are so focused on maximalism that it doesn't even seem to have occurred to them that this is what's going on. In fact, they actually are encouraging the Chinese government to use this as a tool for censorship! Incredible. And incredibly short-sighted.

Then there's this focus on academic journals. As if libraries in China are actually going to pay the insane rates that journals charge? This isn't lost money. Remember, the original purpose of copyright law was to encourage better learning and the wider dissemination of knowledge. And here you have the USTR actively seeking to restrict that, while helping give the Chinese all the justification they need for widespread censorship of the internet.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: china, congress, copyright, international trade, libraries, ustr, wto

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), 24 Jan 2014 @ 2:53am

    W00t? The "National Anti-Pornography Office" is involved? I didn't know they were so advanced there that they had private rooms for checking free porn available at the libraries!

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.