by Mike Masnick
Mon, May 17th 2010 8:51pm
Brazil Moves Forward With Plan To Ignore US Patents And Copyrights After US Refuses To Abide By WTO Ruling
from the ip-retaliation dept
Brazil is now moving forward with a plan to actually ignore US patents and copyrights. It's putting forth a retaliation plan to the WTO that includes various tariffs and other sanctions -- but most interestingly, a plan to ignore $238 million annually in US copyrights and patents -- expected to cover both pharmaceutical patents and entertainment copyrights. As is typical in such situations, the USTR is wagging its finger and warning, "don't do that," but doesn't seem willing to admit that the WTO already ruled against the US.
from the china-probably-doesn't-care dept
So, the US does get to declare "victory" on this particular issue, but it's unlikely that China really cares. Also, it's more than a bit ironic that the US suddenly acts like a WTO ruling like this is meaningful. It's also striking to hear US Trade Rep Ron Kirk claim that "We expect China to respond promptly to these findings and bring its measures into compliance," when the US itself continues to ignore similar WTO rulings against the US when it comes to online gambling in Antigua. For the US to act like the WTO rulings mean something, shouldn't it need to live up to those rulings when it loses as well?
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 21st 2009 1:44am
from the so-much-for-that-plan dept
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 15th 2009 10:33am
from the not-everyone-agrees dept
A year later, the WTO ruled again in favor of Antigua on this issue, though, amusingly, the US Trade Rep misleadingly claimed that the WTO had changed its mind. It had not. The US simply lied about what the WTO really said and declared victory, when it had actually lost again. The following year? The WTO again asked the US why it wasn't living up to its trade obligations on this point. In 2007, the WTO tried again and was ignored again.
In the midst of all this, a rather amusing and interesting suggestion popped up. In the random online discussions about how Antigua could actually flex its muscles against the US, someone pointed out that the WTO could allow Antigua to ignore US intellectual property, thereby allowing it to set up a cheap online download store. That idea gained traction at an incredibly fast pace, as lawyers jumped on the idea and set the wheels in motion. During that time, the US tried to unilaterally change its trade terms with Antigua to settle the matter, but that didn't get very far. Finally, at the end of 2007, the WTO agreed to letting Antigua ignore US intellectual property, but only to the tune of $21 million. Of course, the US quickly threatened Antigua not to go forward with any plans to violate US IP, but did little to rectify the situation. So last year, Antigua insisted it really (really, really, really!) was going to start ignoring US IP.
Since then? Well, it's been really quiet. Until now.
The LA Times has the story of a site called Zookz (from Carib Media), which claims to be taking advantage of the WTO ruling. It is, in fact, based in Antigua and is offering up unlimited music or movie downloads for $10/month -- or both music and movies for $18. Needless to say, the US government and the entertainment industry are vehemently opposed to Zookz interpretation of the WTO ruling -- especially when it comes to the fact that the Zookz service is apparently available outside of Antigua. Honestly, it seems like both sides are stretching the meaning of the ruling. The US and the entertainment industry basically want to completely ignore the WTO ruling, and interpret it to be entirely meaningless. That makes no sense, of course. The WTO wouldn't allow such sanctions unless there were a way to actually make use of them.
That said, it doesn't seem like the WTO ruling gave random private companies carte blanche to offer up music and movies. In fact, the Zookz interpretation gets even odder, where it interprets the $21 million to mean how much it can make, rather than the value "lost" to the industry. In fact, because of this Zookz claims that if it gets too close to selling $21 million (or if others enter the market, and combined they approach $21 million), they'll just have to start giving music and movies away for free to avoid going over the limit. While the WTO did want to give Antigua a weapon against the US, it's hard to believe that was what it meant. So, while this may be amusing to watch, the likelihood of Zookz lasting very long seems slim, at best.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 27th 2009 4:11pm
from the it-lost-badly dept
It appears that's happening again.
Earlier this week, plenty of attention was paid to a WTO ruling concerning US disputes with China over a variety of intellectual property issues. The US Trade Representative quickly declared victory (pdf) and that's the story most of the folks in the press went with, claiming that this was a US victory where the WTO largely supported the US. Some even called it a major victory, while others were surprised that China seemingly was fine with the ruling.
Perhaps that's because if you actually read through the details, you realize, as Michael Geist points out, that the US actually lost very badly. There were three issues at stake -- and the only one the US "won" was the most minor of the three. On the two big issues, concerning China's border measures concerning counterfeit goods and its IP enforcement system within the country, the WTO sided strongly with China, and chastised the US for providing rather bogus "evidence" (often consisting of newspaper articles, rather than actual evidence) in support of its position. It seems like the only mainstream publication that actually bothered to read the report, rather than the USTR's "day is night" version of the events was Forbes, who notes that the USTR was being misleading in claiming victory. Of course, given how the US acted after it lost the Antigua case in the WTO, we can expect the US to appeal the ruling or... just ignore it and continue pretending the WTO actually ruled in its favor.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 23rd 2008 10:42am
from the IP-as-international-retaliation dept
What's really interesting here, though is the ongoing recognition that this is an effective way to retaliate against US efforts to break treaties or laws. With a country like Antigua, which has little else it can do, it might not be that surprising. But seeing a much larger country like Brazil take this approach seriously may lead to it showing up in many more places as well.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 6th 2008 1:58pm
from the stand-your-ground dept
Since Antigua has little leverage against the US, it started to look at other options -- and took serious an idea that some folks first suggested in jest: if the US keeps ignoring the WTO rulings, let Antigua ignore US intellectual property rights. Antigua took this plan to the WTO, and the WTO approved it -- though, limited it to only $21 million worth of intellectual property, which given industry accounting probably represents half an album or so. Either way, the US threatened Antigua not to follow through on this plan, even though the WTO approved it -- and the two sides agreed to negotiate a settlement, with a deadline of today, June 6th.
Well, here we are, and Antigua is saying that (can you believe it?) the US appears to be taking a hardline position on this whole thing and no settlement is expected. It will be interesting to see if Antigua really follows through on ignoring US intellectual property, and how it goes about doing so. Also, it will be worth watching to see how they "count" just how much intellectual property they're ignoring. I'm assuming they won't use RIAA math.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Mar 20th 2008 10:24am
from the no,-really,-really,-really dept
Of course, when Antigua won the final decision in December, allowing the country to ignore US intellectual property rights, the US government and the entertainment industry quickly warned Antigua not to follow through on those plans -- but the US government still won't shift in its position on the matter. Thus, Antigua is agitating to get this show on the road. While it first needs to get one last permission slip from the WTO, once that's in place, it can start ignoring the copyright on American movies and music. Of course, while some are suggesting that it may make sense for The Pirate Bay to move to Antigua, that's not accurate. After all, the WTO has said that Antigua can only violate $21 million worth of intellectual property, and with the way the entertainment industry counts damages, that's like half an album or so.
In fact, that seems to be exactly the angle that the entertainment industry is taking in this fight. An MPAA letter warning: "The proposed retaliation would be impossible to manage. The real and resulting economic harm would vastly exceed any amount the (WTO) might approve, even the grossly exaggerated amount ($3.4 billion) for which Antigua seeks approval, plus the economic harm would extend to other WTO members."
by Timothy Lee
Wed, Jan 2nd 2008 8:35am
from the poetic-justice dept
I certainly agree with her that the gambling ban was a bad idea, but I'm not sure it makes sense to paint Hollywood as an innocent victim here. After all, Hollywood has been pushing for decades to link trade policy and copyright law, going so far as to support free-trade agreements that include terms micro-managing other countries' copyright policies and requiring them to enact laws like the DMCA as a condition of access to American markets. Free traders rightly object when special interests try to use free trade agreements as a way to coerce countries into enacting their preferred labor and environmental policies. We should be equally incensed when Hollywood lobbies for the use of trade agreements to coerce countries into enacting their preferred copyright policies. So there's a certain amount of poetic justice in the fact that Hollywood has found its copyrights in the crosshairs of a trade dispute. James also correctly notes that retaliatory tarriffs are an insane way to impose damages on the losing country in a WTO dispute because tariffs hurt consumers in the "winning" country at the same time it hurts producers in the "losing" country. In contrast, if damages are imposed by targeting copyright law, consumers in the winning country will actually be made better off by lower prices for the copyrighted products in question. So while it would be best of Congress repealed its idiotic gambling ban, I'm not going too upset if Hollywood's attempts to link copyright law to trade policy come back to bite them.