We recently wrote about how, after a decade-long dispute, Antigua appeared to really be moving ahead with its plan to set up an online site that purposely offered infringing works
, violating US copyright law -- and doing so with the authorization from the WTO as a response to the US breaking an existing trade agreement that helped collapse the online gambling industry that was based in Antigua. We've already noted that the US government (as it's been doing for years) has threatened
retaliation if Antigua goes forward with the plan, even though
the WTO has given it the stamp of approval (and ruled against the US multiple times in this dispute, almost all of which have been ignored by the US, with the US flat out lying at one point and pretending it won).
And, of course, it's not just the US government upset by this: the big copyright players have started sputtering out angry screeds. Take, for example, this absolutely laughable historical revisionism from the Copyright Alliance, which talks about just how "unfair" this whole thing would be
, since it impacts third parties. This may be the most tone deaf statement from copyright maximalists in a long time (and that's saying something, given who we're talking about):
First, it raises a question of fundamental fairness about the appropriateness of punishing an unrelated group for circumstances beyond their control. U.S. copyright owners have found themselves chips in a high-stakes international game with no recourse. In addition, TRIPs obligations implicate many downstream stakeholders -- distributors and licensees, for example -- who rely on stable IP rights to function, so suspension of these obligations would affect many individuals and companies in other sectors and even other countries.
Wait, so suddenly the copyright players are concerned about "fairness" and the "appropriateness of punishing an unrelated group for circumstances beyond their control"? Really? So, um, I guess that means they're now against copyright term extension, which did exactly that. Or how about the very fact that IP agreements are included in international trade agreements -- which imposed significant and severe punishments on citizens of countries around the globe "for circumstances beyond their control."
Oh, and now "US copyright owners have found themselves chips in a high-stakes international game with no recourse." Welcome to the club. How about the whole of the public of the US and many, many other countries, who have found themselves exactly that: chips in a high-stakes international game with no recourse. The Big Copyright players, including those who funded and created the Copyright Alliance, have engaged in this game for decades, using the whole international trade game to force copyright maximalism through international trade agreements and then forcing draconian, anti-public laws on countries around the globe.
So, pardon me if I find it laughable that they
of all people suddenly are whining when the shoe is (just slightly) on the other foot.
As for those "downstream stakeholders" who rely on "stable IP rights to function"... So, that must mean that the Copyright Alliance is against changes to copyright law, such as pulling works out of the public domain
, which totally screwed over "downstream" merchants who were making use of those works. Oh, wait, they liked
that ruling. Huh.
The fact is that the copyright industry has had the run of international trade agreements for a few decades. For an enlightening exploration of just how the big copyright players completely inserted themselves into international trade agreements, and used them as a key (some would argue the
key) strategy for ratcheting up copyright laws around the globe, check out the book Information Feudalism
by Peter Drahos and John Braithwaite. It tells the somewhat horrifying story about how a few powerful corporate interests effectively hijacked the TRIPS and WTO processes to use them to spread ratcheting up copyright and patent laws around the globe. We've seen that play out over the past few decades, and there's something absolutely ridiculous to see them now complaining when a single tiny WTO ruling goes against their interests.
Have they no shame?
And, of course, these same copyright maximalists have been instrumental in a number of international agreements since then that have only served to ramp up copyright rules and enforcement. Most recently, for example, we've talked about ACTA and TPP -- both of which would punish the public and harm downstream stakeholders, using them as an uninvolved pawn in a high-stakes international trade game with no recourse. Yet, somehow, the Copyright Alliance and their backers like
that... because they're the ones pulling the strings.
Second, application in this situation seems to run counter to the purpose of cross-retaliation. Since the 1990s, Antigua has set itself up as a safe haven for offshore gambling. Licensing of gambling services make up a significant portion of the country’s revenues. Cross-retaliation as a remedy is, in theory, supposed to provide leverage to smaller, less-developed countries in trade disputes against larger nations. But the Antigua gambling industry is composed of large, international corporations.
Okay, now this one also makes me laugh. Notice these two paragraphs quoted one after the other. In the first one, the Copyright Alliance tries to argue that it's these poor "downstream stakeholders" who are impacted by Antigua's WTO-approved plans. In other words, "think of the poor little guy." In the second paragraph, it argues that this is unfair because it really benefits "large, international corporations."
Uh, guess whose copyrighted works are likely to be sold in this store? You guess it. Those large international corporations who funded and created the Copyright Alliance. It's so incredible dishonest to pretend that this dispute is about big companies in Antigua somehow harming the little guy in the US.
Really, the copyright maximalists apparently have absolutely no shame in historical revisionism and blatantly dishonest and misleading statements about the situation at hand.