U.S. Copyright Lobby Out of Touch With the Rest of the World

Given that it has been picked up by Slashdot, BoingBoing, and Wired, I'm a bit behind in pointing to a column (BBC version, homepage version) I wrote for the BBC on the recent IIPA intellectual property protection submission to the USTR.  The column picks up on many of the points I made in a posting about the submission last week.  In the column I argue that what is most noteworthy about the IIPA effort is that dozens of countries – indeed most of the major global economies in the developed and developing world – are subjected to criticism.  The IIPA recommendations are designed to highlight the inadequacies of IP protection around the world, yet the lobby group ultimately shines the spotlight on how U.S. copyright policy has become out-of-touch and isolated from much of the rest of the globe.

The IIPA criticisms fall into three broad categories.  

First, the lobby group is very critical of any country that does not follow the U.S. model for implementing the World Intellectual Property Organization's Internet Treaties. 

Second, in a classic case of "do what I say, not what I do", many countries are criticized for copyright laws that bear a striking similarity to U.S. law.  The most disturbing illustration of this double standard is the IIPA's criticism of compulsory copyright licensing requirements.   Countries around the world, particularly those in the developing world (including Indonesia, the Philippines, Lebanon, Kuwait, Nigeria, and Vietnam) all face demands to eliminate compulsory licensing schemes in the publishing and broadcasting fields.  Moreover, the report even criticizes those countries that have merely raised the possibility of new compulsory licensing systems, such as Sweden, where politicians have mused about an Internet file sharing license. Left unsaid by the IIPA, is the fact that the U.S. is home to numerous compulsory licenses.  These include statutory licenses for transmissions by cable systems, satellite transmissions, compulsory licenses for making and distributing phonorecords as well as the use of certain works with non-commercial broadcasting.

Third, the IIPA recommendations criticize dozens of efforts to support national education, privacy, and cultural initiatives.  For example, Canada, Brazil, and South Korea are criticized for copyright exceptions granted to students and education institutions.  Italy and Mexico are criticized for failing to establish an easy method for Internet service providers to remove allegedly infringing content (without court oversight), while Greece is viewed as being offside for protecting the privacy of ISP subscribers.  Greece is also taken to task for levying a surcharge at movie theatres that is used to support Greek films.

As I noted in my original post, there are literally hundreds of similar examples, as countries from Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America are criticized for not adopting the DMCA, not extending the term of copyright, not throwing enough people in jail, or creating too many exceptions to support education and other societal goals.  In fact, the majority of the world's population finds itself on the list, with 23 of the world's 30 most populous countries targeted for criticism (the exceptions are the UK, Germany, Ethiopia, Iran, France, Congo, and Myanmar).

Update: Italian translation of the column is available here. 


  1. Someday they’ll come to realize that the average person really doesn’t care what a copyright law says you can or can’t do. We’ll continue to copy, record, rip & convert the media content we want whenever we want.

    Copyright by definition has no direct bearing, link or relationship to individuals making copies of authors works, that’s something the media groups have fabricated into the meaning on their own.

  2. American citizen
    Your anti-Americanism is showing. Your article (in which you pass yourself off as a self-appointed Internet legal guru)fails to take into account that America sets tough standards because America produces the vast majority of retail software sold around the world. Canada can set up all the “chairs” in internet it chooses but America will decide who is stealing from it and who isn’t. America has already legalized the destruction of it’s industrial base to the gain of the rest of the world, Canada included. Are Americans supposed to pay for the development of world-class software so the rest of the world can buy $2 copies?

  3. Useless
    I echo the comments made by the first commenter. Copyright laws are meaningless and useless. They enforce nothing so as long as individuals can anonymously trade and rip files. People prefer free material, no matter how inconvenienced they are in getting it. With the rise of the internet, copyright protection is a thing of the past.

  4. Not Not Anti-American, just reality
    I really enjoyed this article, and found in it yet again more damning evidence that the USA think that they have this “God-given right” to tell the rest of the planet what to do. And America isn’t destructing it’s industrial base for the “good” of the rest of the world, it’s so more money can be made for the fat-cats at the top. It’s up to us to stand up to this Imperial behaviour.

  5. Nothing personal against the US itself..
    It’s nothing personal against the US itself, it’s just that they’re the ones doing the policing. These same criticisms would be valid against any organization engaging in the same practises that they are. It’s not the US personally, DRM and copyright enforcement are just terrible in general.

  6. Doug wrote: “Your anti-Americanism is showing.”

    Being Canadian, it is fine to disagree with Americans. Your points are all anti-Canadian. An American group targets Canada unfairly, and without proof and we have a right to defend ourselves.

    What I dislike is that some Americans feel that “freedom” of thoughts and speech are purely American concepts, and apply only to Americans.

    Frankly, it’s rude.

  7. sysop
    Copyright, I.P rights and most importantly the patent system. Everything is broken in the United States.

    A broken system will invariably lead to curbing innovation.
    That coupled with monopolistic business practices doesn’t add to an ecosystem in the long run.

    This will hurt the North American economy real bad in the future.

    thanks for posting this Michael!