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.