US copyright enemies list is worst ever, including countries whose crime is poverty

Michael Geist sez,

The U.S. Trade Representative released its annual Special 301 Report [an annual enemies list of countries judged not to be doing enough to police US copyrights] yesterday, unsurprisingly including Canada on the Priority Watch list. While inclusion on the list is designed to generate embarrassment in target countries, this year's report should elicit outrage. Not only is the report lacking in objective analysis, it targets some of the world's poorest countries with no evidence of legal inadequacies and picks fights with any country that dare adopt a contrary view on intellectual property issues.

Perhaps the most shameful inclusion in this year's report are a series of countries whose primarily fault is being poor. For example, the list includes Guatemala, a small country the size of Tennessee with a per capita GDP of just over $5,000. It is coming out of an economic depression that had a severe impact on rural income. The IIPA did not ask for it to be included on the Special 301 Report. In response to past pressures and the conclusion of a trade agreement, Guatemala amended its copyright laws, toughened penalties, created a special IP prosecutor, and increased IP enforcement within the government. Yet the USTR included it on the list.

Note that the USTR did not criticize Guatemala's laws as the government has complied with repeated U.S. demands to shift resources toward IP enforcement. Indeed, there is no obvious reason for inclusion on the Special 301 list other than an attempt to lobby a country that ranks 123rd worldwide in per capita GDP to spend even more money enforcing US intellectual property rights rather than on education, health care or infrastructure, the sorts of expenditures that might improve the country's overall economy and ultimately lead to reduced rates of infringement.

Stop Being Poor: U.S. Piracy Watch List Hits A New Low With 2012 Report


  1. Where do I sign my name telling my government I don’t want them pestering poor countries anymore? Whether it’s cramming democracy down their throat or making sure no illegal copies of Windows get installed, it seems like a whole lot of effort spent completely ignoring the actual problems those countries face.

    1. That’s the big question, right? What do you do when your government is doing things you don’t like? A friend brought that one up shortly after 9/11 and instantly I had never felt more disconnected from my government as I have since then.

    2.  Crazy thing is, MS would rather see the population of poor nations use unlicensed MS products than go Linux or similar. This because a population familiar with MS products makes it easier for businesses to choose said products over the competition. And businesses are far easier to shake down over licensing issues than random citizens.

  2. They’re not kidding about the shaming, either. This, from the 301 Report re Guatemala:

    “Look at this banana republic. Just look at it.”

    1. It matters for some preferential trade benefits and a few other things. Mostly nobody though, because there isn’t much evidence that the preferential trade benefits are very useful in a lot of very poor countries.

      By the way, I am pretty sure that the U.S. would put the U.S. on the Special 301 list if it were directed to look at itself. I think the prevalence of bootleg CDs at flea markets alone would do it.

  3. The annual Special 301 list is mandated are mandate by the US Trade Act of 1974. The bias seen in the list is primarily due to the undue influence US businesses and copyrights holders have in shaping these reports. The US Trade Representatives receive submissions from such illustrious organizations like the International Intellectual Property Right Alliance, which graciously catalogs their Special 301 complaints if you want a to take a look:

  4. I’m amazed that Australia isn’t on the list considering our high court recently ruled in favour of ISP iinet IRT the movie industry claiming ISPs have a responsibility to monitor their customers to stem piracy.

    Every little moment of jackassery like this reinforces my choice to download everything. You want to mess with our rights? Then we’ll mess with yours.

  5. Canada
    Canada remains on the Priority Watch List in 2012, subject to review if Canada enacts long awaited copyright legislation. The Government of Canada has given priority to that legislation. The United States welcomes that prioritization and looks forward to studying the legislation once it is finalized, and will consider, among other things, whether it fully implements the WIPO Internet Treaties, and whether it fully addresses the challenges of piracy over the Internet. The United States also continues to urge Canada to strengthen its border enforcement efforts, 26 including by providing customs officials with ex officio authority to take action against the importation, exportation, and transshipment of pirated or counterfeit goods. The United States remains concerned about the availability of rights of appeal in Canada’s administrative process for reviewing the regulatory approval of pharmaceutical products, as well as limitations in Canada’s trademark regime. The United States looks forward to continuing its close cooperation with Canada on IPR issues, and will continue to work with the Government of Canada to resolve these and other matters.

    Summary: “Youse laws are too good! Make youse laws suck like ourz or we put you on this list til ya do! The media empire… erm USA gov’mint has spokin’!”

    Seriously does anyone take these things seriously anymore. The entire thing is fabrication designed to try and influence foreign countries laws to adhere to the corrupt ones in the US designed by Big Media, who have bought and paid for politics in the US. Unfortunately for Canadians we have a Conservative government that want to bend over backwards for everything the US wants of us, so the positive spin to the above is likely deserved. Sigh…

Comments are closed.