We've talked in the past about the US State Department's horrific IP Attache program. These are US government "diplomats" whose sole job is to go around the world spreading copyright and patent maximalist propaganda based on the interests of a few large US companies. There's been an effort underway to expand this group -- and, in fact, one of the many clauses hidden in SOPA was a plan to do so, massively
. After SOPA failed, Lamar Smith actually tried to pass a bill that focused just on expanding
the IP Attache group, but thanks to a quick outcry, that seemed to get shelved too.
Nearly four years ago, we wrote about the IP Attaches getting together to whine
about all of those darn "anti-IP activists" making their lives difficult -- and apparently they're still at it. The US Chamber of Commerce -- a giant lobbying group who was one of the major backers of SOPA -- apparently hosted the IP Attache annual gathering recently, allowing for more rants about people making their lives difficult
by actually telling people that maybe, just maybe, expanding copyright and patent law isn't such a good thing. And, can we just note how odd it is that no one thinks there's any conflict of interest at all in a lobbying group hosting an event for these US government employees?
The main target of derision among IP Attaches? NGOs, or non-governmental organizations -- who are normally focused on pesky things like the well-being of the public
. But, according to the IP Attaches, these darn NGOs and their do-gooding is getting in the way of them getting to spread their Hollywood and US Chamber of Commerce-backed maximalist propaganda:
Karin Ferriter, the IP attache to the World Trade Organization, had particularly sharp words for non-governmental organisations operating in Geneva, where she said there a “number of people working to undermine IP.”
Such opponents are “heavily populated” in Geneva but not typically found in the capitals, she said. She referred to a recent trip she had to Cameroon, where, she said, government officials were “true believers” and want better quality products through IP rights.
“People in Geneva are misinformed by the NGO community to devalue IP,” Ferriter said. And the job of the IP attaches is to remind them of the importance of IP and a strong IP system.
“Unfortunately,” she said, NGOs “are working just as much as possible to weaken the IP system.” There is a disconnect, Ferriter said, “but that’s where we come in, to help them see the value of it.”
Others noted similar issues, even calling such NGOs "the wrong people" spreading "the wrong message."
Todd Reves, the IP attache to the UN in Geneva, particularly the World Intellectual Property Organization, concurred with Ferriter. He said in Geneva, it is often a case of “the wrong people talking to the right people.” Some diplomats there are not IP experts, and some are given more flexibility to act on their government’s behalf, so they are “more susceptible” to the messages of the NGOs. “They may be hearing the wrong message,” he said.
Notice the tricky use of words here: anyone who looks at the mountains of evidence that show stricter IP laws can have serious limiting impacts on innovation and economic growth isn't just "wrong" but they're "not IP experts." We see this all the time in the comments here. In the maximalist world, your opinion doesn't matter if you don't have a history of profiting off of the IP system. That
makes you an expert. Those who actually understand, say, the economic, cultural or health impacts of expanded IP programs... they're just not experts.
Some of the specifics they talked about show how these folks are all about massively increasing patents and copyrights around the globe, no matter what the consequences. One attache complains about how Brazil has all sorts of well educated people, but they're just not getting enough patents
. As if more patents is the end goal. Similarly, another person complains that experts in Southeast Asia have accurately pointed out that patent and copyrights "are equated with products being more expensive." He seems horrified by this bit of factual information getting out into the world, and suggests that IP Attaches in the area need to focus more on "the positive benefits of IP" and push that. The idea that the people he denigrates are actually right, and perhaps the people in those countries are better served with more affordable products, does not seem to occur to him. That's not his job, of course. He's not there to make things better in the world. He's there to make things more expensive, so big US companies can profit -- and he's getting paid with American taxpayer money to do so.
Not surprisingly, the same guy is really excited about the "ripple effects" the TPP and its ridiculous language on copyrights and patents will have on the region -- hopefully forcing many countries to sign onto legislation favored by US corporate interests.
Then there's this:
Reves summed up: “We’re trying to change the view that IP is bad to IP is good.” He mentioned an enterprise forum that is in the works for the 2013 WIPO General Assembly next October, at which companies will highlight the advantages of IP rights. He said that while “the jury is still out,” he is optimistic that five years from now the debate in Geneva will turn more pro-IP.
The idea that WIPO has not been pro-IP enough is hilarious to anyone who's actually followed WIPO over the years. The organization has always been ridiculously pro-IP. And, yes, it's true that in the past few years, they've finally (grudgingly) acknowledged claims from some developing countries that expanded patent laws (mainly) have the ability to cause more harm than good, but the organization is now and has always been ridiculously "pro-IP."
Either way, it's really ridiculous that the US government employs these people, who so blatantly represent the interests of a very small sliver of corporate America, rather than what's actually best for innovation, culture, health and economic growth.