USTR: Foreign Governments Engaging In Censorship And Rights Abuses Should Add IP Enforcement To Their 'To Do' Lists

from the let-the-USTR-set-your-priorities-for-you dept

If it's mid-spring, it means it's time for the US Trade Representative's "Special 301 Report," the annual "event" that names and shames countries who don't live up to US industries' intellectual property protection ideals. The same countries that have made the list for years still make the list, although a few have moved up a notch from the "Priority Watch" list to just the normal "Watch" list.

There are lots of familiar names on the lists, including such perennial favorites as China, India, Russia and… Canada. The report offers congratulations to countries like Italy, which has managed to steer clear of the watchlists by instituting censorious IP enforcement procedures like site-blocking. And it pats other countries on the head for ceding to the USTR's IP imperialism in exchange for upgraded 301 listings.

USTR has noted the willingness of two Watch List countries, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, to work with the United States on improving their IPR protection and enforcement regimes and will conduct an OCR for each country to evaluate whether specific steps taken merit their removal from the Watch List.
The USTR has no interest in determining whether the US's IP laws are actually a good fit for other nations, especially those with a host of more pressing problems. All it cares about it whether they live up to the American ideal, as stated by the loudest "more-is-better" IP enforcement proponents. All in all, it's a completely ridiculous bit of paper rattling, served up annually for maximum theatricality.

Sadly, many of those who have landed on the USTR's Naughty 301 list take this process far too seriously. Even at its gravest, the USTR's only real threat is that if things don't change, it will be forced to print out Country X's name under a different bold sub-header in next year's report.
USTR extends the current OCR of Paraguay, which is currently on the Watch List, to provide additional time for conclusion of a bilateral IPR Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). USTR encourages Paraguay to conclude the MOU by June 30, 2015, and notes that if Paraguay does not do so, USTR will evaluate possible implications accordingly, including with respect to Paraguay’s status under Special 301.
Meanwhile, the USTR wants governments with histories of human rights abuses to institute stricter IP-related policies -- one that should better aid them in achieving their censorious ends. Thailand, which has already put mass internet surveillance in place to make sure its king remains unbesmirched, is encouraged to put its police force to use to round up infringers. Pakistan, itself engaged in censorship and mass surveillance of its citizens, is told it should hand over ex officio power to law enforcement to move against infringers without having to wait around for rights holder complaints. Ecuador, which already knows a thing or two about abusing the DMCA process, is elevated to the "Priority" list for not treating other nations' IP as worthy of the same sort of censorious actions. The USTR wants Mexico to divert law enforcement resources to combating counterfeiting and piracy, as if dealing with the consequences of four decades of US drug warring wasn't enough to keep it busy. And the USTR issues demands to Venezuela, as if that dumpster fire of a government has any interest in listening to what a US representative has to say -- especially one acting on behalf of a handful of US industries.

Like every year, the report is a joke. And it's not even a report -- not in the normal definition of the word. There's no independent action by the USTR to investigate IP laws and violations elsewhere in the world. Instead, it relies on submissions from entities like the MPAA and BSA and writes their accusations up as a "report" on the state of IP protections elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately, there aren't enough countries in on the joke. Canada, for one, at least issues nothing more than an eye roll in response to being listed as one of the world's top offenders, despite having IP laws at least as stringent as the United States'. And there's something both surreal and ugly about a process that includes the executive vice president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association -- whose members depend heavily on cheap foreign labor -- complaining that other countries aren't doing enough to prevent citizens from purchasing affordable knockoffs of the same clothes they're making for US companies, but can't actually afford to buy.

Filed Under: canada, censorship, copyright, ecuador, intellectual property, mexico, pakistan, special 301, special 301 report, ustr


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Apr 2016 @ 4:53am

    Censorship, Rights Abuses and IP Enforcement - the USTR Triad

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