The U.S. Trade Representative has released its annual Special 301 report, in which it criticizes dozens of countries over their intellectual property laws while ignoring its own shortcomings. Despite demands from the copyright lobby that Canada be placed on the "Priority Watch List," Canada is again on the lower level Watch List along with 35 other countries including Norway, Greece, Italy, Spain, and South Korea. The USTR press release states that "Canada has taken some significant steps in the past year and, given the importance of the outstanding issues and maturity of its economy, we look forward to additional action in the coming months on the IP reforms identified as key priorities by the Government of Canada."
While the U.S. copyright lobby wasted no time in lamenting the decision to keep Canada at the lower list, Canadians would do well to keep the Special 301 exercise in proper perspective. The U.S. criticizes so many countries (46 this year) that the process has little credibility. Moreover, other countries have begun to challenge the U.S. on this issue and raise greater awareness of how the U.S. is itself non-compliant on some copyright issues. Canada has not defended itself within the Special 301 process, but at least officials have placed it in the proper perspective as an official with the Department of Foreign Affairs told a House of Commons committee last spring that:
In regard to the watch list, Canada does not recognize the 301 watch list process. It basically lacks reliable and objective analysis. It's driven entirely by U.S. industry. We have repeatedly raised this issue of the lack of objective analysis in the 301 watch list process with our U.S. counterparts.