One of the most interesting revelations in the newly released Wikileaks cables is the close connection between the U.S. government and the Canadian Recording Industry Association on in lobbying the Canadian government on copyright reform. Several cables reveal private meetings, access to internal documents, and strategy discussions.
For example, a 2006 cable discusses efforts to convince Canada to join the U.S. WTO complaint against China (I wrote about the case here and here). The cable notes that embassy officials met with CRIA’s Graham Henderson to discuss “the U.S. Government’s role in encouraging the Government of Canada to pass legislation implementing the WIPO Internet Treaties.” Henderson also used the meeting to reveal the results of a private Canadian government consultation meeting on China and provided a private CRIA analysis on the case. The cable concludes that “CRIA is leading the charge to get the GOC to join the US case.”
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A new Wikileaks cable confirms
that the Conservative government delayed introducing copyright legislation in early 2008 due to public opposition. The delay – which followed the decision in December 2007 to hold off introducing a bill after it was placed on the order paper (and the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group took off) – lasted until June 2008. The U.S. cable notes confirmation came directly from then-Industry Minister Jim Prentice, who told U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins that cabinet colleagues and Conservative MPs were worried about the electoral implications of copyright reform: From December 2007 to mid-February, senior GOC officials and well-informed private sector contacts assured the Embassy that legislative calendar concerns were delaying the copyright bill’s introduction into Parliament. Our contacts downplayed the small – but increasingly vocal – public opposition to copyright reform led by University of Ottawa law professor Dr. Michael Geist. On February 25, however, Industry Minister Prentice (please protect) admitted to the Ambassador that some Cabinet members and Conservative Members of Parliament – including MPs who won their ridings by slim margins – opposed tabling the copyright bill now because it might be used against them in the next federal election. Prentice said the copyright bill had become a “political” issue. He also indicated that elevating Canada to the Special 301 Priority Watch List would make the issue more difficult and would not be received well.
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Wikileaks posted several new ACTA cables earlier this month (1
). Much of the commentary
on how the U.S. envisioned using ACTA to pressure developing countries. For example, one cable
– which suggests that ACTA could be concluded in 2006 (a year before negotiations were even announced) – states:
Arai stressed that we should move as fast as possible and keep in mind that the intent of the agreement is to address the IPR problems of third-nations such as China, Russia, and Brazil, not to negotiate the different interests of like-minded countries. The new agreement could serve as a yardstick for measuring the market economy status of countries such as China and Russia.
Another cable includes commentary on specifically excluding other international organizations, with the USTR stressing that the G8 or OECD “might make it more difficult to construct a high-standards agreement.”
From a Canadian perspective it is worth noting that the Japanese proposed keeping Canada out of the initial negotiating group.
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Wikileaks has posted a 2007 cable from the U.S. embassy in France that recommends creating a “retaliation list” against countries opposed to genetically modified crops. The plan to target countries on the GMO issue is reminiscent of similar efforts on intellectual property laws, that lead to the annual Special 301 […]
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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.
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