The Office of the United States Trade Representative has
placed Russia and China at the top of its “priority watch list” for copyright
violations in recently issued report. Joining China and Russia on the
“priority” watch list are Argentina, Chile, Egypt, India, Israel, Lebanon,
Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela.
Nations placed on a “lower level” watch list were Belarus,
Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic,
Ecuador, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, South Korea, Kuwait,
Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania,
Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
The news is not all bad. The Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, the
EU, and Latvia are being removed from the watch lists altogether based on their
improved protections since the last report. The Report also names Vietnam, a
recent World Trade Organization (WTO) admittee, and Taiwan as improving IP
The U.S. has recently filed cases with the WTO against China
for its failure to comply with IP laws. However, the United States’ standing
with the WTO can be described as tenuous, at best. In late 2006 Congressional
passage of an anti-online gaming bill, signed by the President, was directly
contrary to WTO rules governing gambling. There are numerous other examples of
the United States’ “pick and choose” attitude towards WTO rules.
While the suits may be more show than substance the method
of employing international public pressure is one of the best arrows in
enforcers’ quivers. The sheer numbers of copyright infringers worldwide is
staggering. Applying pressure to governments with incentives to comply with IP
protection can help to delegate the load of enforcement, and assumably leads to
greater worldwide enforcement.
Taiwan is one such example. After being named on the list
last year, the report notes that Taiwan has made “strong efforts and
significant strides in improving its IPR regime” which included new
legislation, increased raids and enforcement actions, and increased arrests.
Bottom Line: Bringing
attention to the problems of worldwide copyright protection can only serve to
help the problem. The backhanded enlistment of foreign nations, brought about
primarily via political pressure, serves as an effective way to share the
burden of protecting intellectual property rights. We will likely see similar
methods employed in pursuit of protections for intellectual property rights in