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The Wikileaks Copyright Cables: Confirmations Not Revelations

Last weekend, I posted that I suspected the KIPR tag on U.S. diplomatic cables being released by Wikileaks represented cables involving intellectual property issues.  Sure enough, the first batch of KIPR cables have been released in Spain, confirming U.S. pressure on that country to reform its copyright laws.  The release – which come from El Pais – has generated considerable commentary with BoingBoing proclaiming that it reveals that the U.S. wrote Spain’s proposed copyright law.  That headline led others to speculate what the remaining KIPR cables might reveal, particularly the 65 Canadian ones (there are also 84 WIPO tagged cables and nearly 2,500 KIPR tagged cables overall).  There has been one release on copyright law in France, with officials discussing U.S. industry support for its three-strikes approach.

While I am very interested in seeing the Canadian KIPR cables, I’d be surprised if the cables reveal anything new.  The fact that the U.S. is actively lobbying in foreign countries on intellectual property issues (particularly copyright) is not a secret, it’s a open strategy.  The cables don’t really show that the U.S. wrote Spain’s copyright law, because they didn’t need to.  Years of relentless lobbying pressure at the highest levels of government make it as clear as possible what the U.S. is looking for (plus they release the annual Special 301 report just in case anyone is still confused) so that when a government decides to reform its laws it invariably takes the U.S. position into account.

The U.S. lobbying and political pressure approach is pretty transparent and now confirmed by the cables.  In the case of Spain, they show a detailed strategy document with short, medium and long term goals, meetings (1, 2) between the U.S. Ambassador and Spanish politicians on the need to do more on copyright, joint meetings with industry lobbyists, U.S. officials, and government officials, updates on the political pressure against U.S. supported copyright reforms, recommendations on whether to escalate pressure on Spain through the Special 301 list (1, 2), joint projects with rights holder groups, and opportunities for rights holders to speak and influence opinion.

If this sounds familiar, it is because precisely the same trends and activities have been unfolding  in Canada for years.  In addition to the ACTA file, in 2010:

  • MPs from all opposition parties noted the influence of the U.S. on Bill C-32
  • CRIA traveled to Washington to lobby for increased pressure on Canadian copyright
  • An academic paper quoted a former government chief of staff as stating that the PMO required the U.S. to be satisfied with any copyright reform package
  • meetings with U.S. officials were held throughout the spring in advance of Bill C-32
  • the U.S. placed Canada on its Priority Watch List over it copyright law, despite many U.S. companies arguing against it
  • the U.S. Ambassador to Canada (a former IP lawyer), denied reports linking copyright reform to “Buy American” provisions, but noted that the U.S. will continue to press Canada on the issue

This is fairly typical.  In 2009:

  • Lobbyists on both sides of the border held public events in Canada and the U.S. criticizing Canadian copyright law
  • the Entertainment Software Association suggested using ACTA to force Canadian copyright reform
  • the Conference Board of Canada published its plagiarized reports on copyright that recommended U.S. style reforms.  The reports were funded by some U.S. groups and copied materials from the U.S. IIPA
  • the U.S. Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus placed Canada on a watch list
  • the USTR placed Canada on the Special 301 Priority Watch List
  • then Trade Minister Stockwell Day was lobbied on copyright on a visit to Washington
  • Vice-President Joe Biden criticized Canadian copyright at an MPAA dinner

I could go year-by-year with the similar stories – a U.S. Consul-General claiming had that Canada has the weakest copyright laws in the G-8 (including Russia) in 2008, CRIA meeting with Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Wilson in Washington and huge U.S. pressure on Canada at the SPP meeting in Montebello in 2007, U.S. government criticisms of Bill C-60 in 2005, the lobbying pressure on iCraveTV and Canadian reforms on retransmission in 2000, etc.

Perhaps the best known effort was the remarkable lobbying campaign for anti-camcording legislation in late 2006 and 2007.  Despite departmental advice that Canadian law could already address unauthorized camcording, U.S. and movie studio pressure succeeded in getting a bill introduced and passed within a matter of weeks in 2007, capped by a visit from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger.  Soon afterward, then head of the CMPDA acknowledged that backroom lobbying by the U.S. Ambassador to Canada (Wilkins) and Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. (Wilson) were instrumental in getting the bill passed.

In other words, the Wikileaks copyright cables are likely to confirm rather than reveal.  The U.S. copyright pressure on Canada (and many other countries) has been so pervasive that backroom deals, political arm twisting, and public pressure has ceased to surprise or shock anyone.  The real revelations lie not in whether there is U.S. pressure but rather in how Canadian officials respond to it.

35 Comments

  1. I’m pretty sure that Canadian officials respond by just bowing down to the pressure. Since the bill obviously doesn’t make Canadian happy no matter which side of the fense they are on.

  2. Laurel L. Russwurm says:

    Confirmation is good.


  3. My question is why do we have to adopt policies that don’t work. Just look at US economic & “IP” scene. The economy is a mess, the incumbent tech companies are entangled in an intricate web of patents and copyrights and licenses that will ensure that there will be no significant progress.

    Yet Mr. Moore tells us that it is with such policies that we will create progress and a “digital future” for Canada.

    Maybe I would have given him the benefit of doubt if I haven’t seen the US example. But right now I don’t believe this is the right way.

    Nap.

  4. Adopt policies that don’t work
    Napalm said: My question is why do we have to adopt policies that don’t work

    Well Canadian politicians are paid for by the RIAA/MPAA and pampered by US officials. Doesn’t matter what we, as in Canadian voters want. If we did get what we want Canada would be in a better place.

    Can’t wait for the Banking leaks.

  5. If you look at the tags on the cables, there are about 2000 cables tagged KIPR and about 66 of them are also labelled CA for Canada.

    I wish these would be released faster so we can get to those American Bank leaks…

  6. Bill MacEachern says:

    I am so sick…
    of these unacountable pols bending over backwards to cater to the US at the expense of their own constituents. I cannot wait to vote Stephen “Do whatever it takes to make the Americans happy” Harper out on his ass. But, of course, by then it will be too late and the damage done. Why are our own politicians so busy catering to the Americans? Is there some prize they get if the US is happy??

  7. In the spirit of the season …
    A Christmas copyright classic … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYEpJb8F4Uk

  8. After a fashion
    I can understand the rationale for ensuring the US is happy. They are our single largest trading partner (for better or for worse). The impact of them trying to make things difficult for us on the trade front would be substantially greater than any other country. Remember the trade problems that occurred in the wake of the increased security after 9/11, in particular at border crossings? Now, imagine, if you will, the impact that could happen if the US were to decide to make a concerted effort to make things difficult for us.

    Now, do I agree with this? No. But part of the way out is for us to reduce the coupling of our economy from that of the US.


  9. Nap said:
    “The economy is a mess, the incumbent tech companies are entangled in an intricate web of patents and copyrights and licenses that will ensure that there will be no significant progress.”

    …no significant progress…isn’t that what the indistry has been trying to achieve for years?


  10. If they are so pressed to mandate how we watch movies in our basements err… home theaters, maybe we could also have a law that mandates King Stephen & the gang to have their cars modified so when they turn the key there will be advertising playing for the next 5 minutes and only then the car starts. Circumventing being a criminal act.

    Nap.


  11. Actually Barry could have one installed too so he could show the C-32 committee an example of a “new business model” creating a “new revenue stream”.

    I’m sure everyone will be thrilled and vote the law immediately without any further questions.

    nap.

  12. trade
    yes they are our largest trading partner… and maybe we should take a stand for our own sovereignty when they pull shit like this and stop the flow of electricity, water, oil, timber, and wheat.

    start with a week shutdown and take it from there.

  13. Sad Canadian says:

    I think any politician/lawyer/otherwise caught doing the bidding of foreign interests should face the death penalty under the Section 46 – 2b of the criminal code of Canada. Treason!

    Follow the logic here: These acts will adversely affect our economy, benefiting the economy of the US. Thereby forcing further downsizing of military (harm to military). That satisfies the high treason section of the act.

    Also if the C-32 affects the Queens IPOD and harms her during any visits… ITS HIGH TREASON! Off with their heads!


  14. Death might be a little harsh. Actually, it would be better if C-32 were passed, otherwise we’ll just to go through it all again in another year. With a few minor tweeks to clear up some of the imbalances, it promises to be a decent piece of legislation.

    Ultimately I do agree that Moore and Clement formed the bill under foreign influence and should at the least be fired for it. I know I won’t be voting conservative next election.


  15. @IanME: “Death might be a little harsh.”

    Agreed. I propose a daily dose of mandatory advertising. Remember the scene in “Lost” where Karl is tied to a chair with eyes forced open, facing a screen and with humongous speakers around him blaring some stupid commercials-like programming?

    Dr. Napalm orders 1 hour per day, first thing in the morning.

    Nap.

  16. Frost The Snowman says:

    I concur, if the US will have a trade war over something ridiculous like IP, then let them go for it. The idea posed in order to promote fear mongering that our “largest trade partner” will do something is preposterous. It hurts both sides, and if that is honestly the US’s true colours then let the whole world see them how they really are. Let’s take a close are look at reality, the US is in a deep deep financial hole, and they are not going to come out of it. Let’s learn from our neighbour’s mistakes and not make the same ones. Stephen Harper is completely in America’s pocket, if anyone thinks different their heads are in the sand. Let’s all be original, thoughtful, intelligent… let’s be Canadian.


  17. @Frost: “The idea posed in order to promote fear mongering that our “largest trade partner” will do something is preposterous.”

    If it arranges them they will do it whether we passed C-32 or not.

    Nap.

  18. Internet news
    Victoria has decided to shape the Internet as she sees fit:

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1210/46003.html

    Next round will be “canadian pharmacies”.

    My question is what does she understand by “counterfeit drugs”? Really counterfeit like in selling blanks with “brand name” packaging? Or generic ones? Would she test the merchandise to see what it really is before deciding to shut down the site?

    Guess not. It would be more like “the industry” sending a monthly list of sites to be shut down, eh?

    Nap.

  19. Why the **AA should be branded a terrorist organization ;-0
    @MAPP – “The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has decided put pressure on universities to curb student piracy. The organization notified its partners this week that it would begin sending out letters to college and university presidents requiring universities to take steps to stop copyright infringement on campus in order to continuing receiving state funding and student aid.”

    Ok, let me get this straight. The MPAA wants universities to spend MILLIONS of dollars to police the infringement of THEIR products. If the colleges and universities refuse they will face a content industry’s lobbied law that will remove funding for education.

    I have a few problems with this:

    1) Why should the universities pay out of their own budgets to combat infringement of the **AA products?
    2) How much do they really think they are loosing from broke students?
    3) Most Significantly … They want to cancel a student’s education, possibly destroy their career track and ruin a future prospective customer with poverty and embitter them to ever buy any of your products out of spite?

    I seriously have to wonder about the intelligence of content industry executives .. seriously, it’s scary.

    Here’s what I’d do:

    1) Set up an industry sponsored media server on each campus.
    2) Offer students a set amount of free media per week that they can choose from, include ads .. it’s free they’ll accept it.
    3) Offer more free media ‘credits’ based on their GPA or their schools official sports team scores. Engage them.

    So, we have students getting their media from industry rather than pirates, it’s supported by ads, there is good will generated towards the content industry, marks may improve leading to higher skills and disposable income. You are developing customers.

    Now compare this thinking with the MPAA geniuses. They should hire me.

  20. @Crockett

    Universities should set up CC licensed music servers and let students download from those. I bet you could even talk to commercial musicians and ask them to release tracks to the universities only so students can download them for free or even pay for “special” tracks.

    This way the students start to think about CC music and less of RIAA music.

  21. @Enduser

    Yes, I agree with you there, but we were talking about MPAA and thus movies. there is some good inie video out there but not as mature as the music scene.

  22. @Frost
    Perhaps you’ve forgotten softwood lumber? How many tribunals rules the tariff as being contrary to international treaty, etc, and yet in the end they wouldn’t return all of the money they collected on the tariff (to the tune of a billion dollars)? I never claimed a trade war, by the way. I said simply making things difficult for Canadians to do business in the US. In some sectors it is difficult enough already; back when I was a public servant (early to mid 90s) I had friends travel to DC on a diplomatic passport; they were hassled by US Immigration who were worried they were taking jobs from Americans. With the increased power of the Tea Party this kind of thing will, I suspect, increase. It isn’t about preventing Canadians from doing business in the US or with the US, it is about making it more of a hassle to do so. In the defence sector doing business in the US… well, don’t bother if you are trying to prime major programs, between the Armed Services committee of Congress and ITAR regulations. It is possible to sub.

    @Napalm: That scene from Lost you described… sounds a lot like something from “A Clockwork Orange”. I never watched Lost. I wonder if they got Anthony Burgess’ permission.

    Sad Canadian: would that include those working for foreign companies based in Canada? Mind you, that includes most large Canadian companies these days (GM, Ford, Chrysler, BFI, etc).


  23. @Anon-K:

    And the cows are mad and the Alberta oil is bad and so on. Do you think that passing C-32 would fix these? Nope. They’ll just call us “suckers” in their “diplomatic” cables.

    OTOH. Why do I have to take this s**t because some rich guy wants to export even more lumber to US? Let him pay levies and stuff.

    As for Lost/Orange and so on. “Culture” is a succession of more or less derived works. It is only these years that everyone and his dog want to charge for their contribution without being charged for all the rest.

    Nap.


  24. Yeah, this must be the solution. Create an tax for those exporting to US and pass the money to “the industry”. This way they would forget about c-32 and would go to Washington to lobby “we really need more Canadian lumber this year.”

    Problem solved.

    Nap.


  25. Now seriously. If there are costs associated to doing trade with US, then let the traders bear those costs.

    Nap.

  26. Frost The Snowman says:

    @Anon-K

    First of all I don’t agree with government subsidies in natural resource sectors, and if they weren’t there we wouldn’t be having the lumber dispute. That’s another discussion all together. However, what you were describing happening to you and your friends, was and still is happening to this day regardless of profession and/or ongoing trade disputes. What needs to be seen here is the U.S. is a world class bully, and every tactic they use is indicative of this. I’m glad these cables are coming out as hopefully the people that don’t see this and think that somehow the U.S. telling us what WE should do is somehow good for us. What happened to the nationalistic pride we had here? We should stand up to the bully, don’t mistake what I’m saying as some sort of military stand off, but we can take the same approach through our diplomatic relations rather than curtailing to what the US wants. Do you really want Canada to become like the states and have way corporations write our laws? Does anyone in their right mind think any corporation ever thinks about us? They call us consumers, as if that’s all we’re good for. It will be a sad day in Canada when our public servants start saying comments like “I’ve carried more water than Gunga Din for the business community – the people who pay the taxes.” [http://www.wcnc.com/news/local/Salisbury-to-test-fiber-optic-cable-system.html]


  27. @Frost: “What happened to the nationalistic pride we had here?”

    There’s some left in Quebec, otherwise we’re all “In Gold We Trust” devotees.

    Nap. :-(

  28. Planned obsolescence
    Since Michael just posted a link to the “planned obsolescence” article…. the author hasn’t been around long enough, here’s what was before vinyl:

    http://www.stereophile.com/content/where-we-are-and-how-we-got-here

    Nap the old fart who still have reel tapes in his basement

  29. And a new “business model” from US
    Fertilityrights. Now we could have an “industry” buying and selling them.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/ted-turner-urges-world-leaders-to-adopt-chinas-one-child-policy-on-global-scale-2010-12

    Of course, as any new US “business models” it needs special laws in order to make it viable. But hey, what is lobbying for?

    Nap.

  30. @Frost
    Not disagreeing with you… My point is that the government would be remiss if they tried to take these issues in isolation. At the end of the day, the US is the big kid on the block. If enough of the smaller kids get together they can stand up to the big kid. Otherwise the big kid simply beats the crap out of them one at a time. Thus, I say that not only does Canada need to stand up, but we should be encouraging others to do so as well. Some of this has occurred, but not much, and what has occurred has been to little effect. For instance, I seem to remember our ambassador making comments about the USTR Special 301 report singling us out. Did it make many papers (perhaps beyond the NY Times)? If it doesn’t get press coverage, not much is likely to happen as you’ll only get action if you can convince the US populace to get on our side, or at least demand that their government give us a fair shake.

    Perhaps I misunderstood you, but remember, corporations also pay taxes in Canada… as such they should have a say in what happens. However, we need to make sure that say is not out of proportion.

    @Napalm: No, I don’t think that C-32 will fix this. C-32 is in some ways a symptom of the disease, not a cure for it.

    With respect to subsidies in natural resources, the US is hardly innocent on this front. There are places where the US Forestry Service has decided to clear cut to deal with a fire risk; in more than one case they gave the land to a forestry company for a $0 stumpage fee. I won’t get started on farm subsidies, etc. The point I was making is that Congress really doesn’t give a hoot about international treaties (that is a presidential concern). They seem to have the opinion that American law trumps international treaties. If a domestic organization convinces enough Congressmen that such and such a foreign organization is a problem (even if it isn’t), they’ll do something about it. Remember, elections occur every other year. Members of the House of Representatives have to stand every 2 years, while a full third of the Senate stands at the same time. There is no such thing as Party Discipline. They have fixed election dates.

    This is an important consideration. As such, members of Congress are in essence always in election mode, in particular the members of the HR. Add to this the much higher donation limits to parties and candidates (making the corporate voice more dominant) and we see policies like we currently do. The trick is to learn to use their system to achieve our aims, not try to work it like we would here and then complain when it doesn’t go the way we want. On this front we’ve got a ways to go.

  31. I often wonder what a poorer relations with the ‘states would look like…probably less national income and more internal trading as we already have superior tech and social infrastructure.

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  35. Lawyers
    I think it is interesting how we have to get into everyone’s business. This brings up a lot of questions with me. I will probably have to save those for another day. http://www.asheborolaw.com/#!traffic/c1lx4