The Wide World of Piracy: Special 301 for 2008

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 4/30/2008 12:16:00 AM
Intellectual property holds a special place in the hearts of IPE scholars. My more critical (read: Marxist) colleagues basically adopt the line of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon that (intellectual) property is theft. Being decidedly less socialist in outlook, I am still ambivalent over the extent to which IP violations are indeed theft. Certainly, a bit of imitation can be flattering, though I can't expound fully on my idea in this short space. American industry, however, displays none of this ambivalence. It has sought very strong IP protections in trade matters, especially with the incorporation of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) into the WTO. Instead of whacking perceived offenders unilaterally through Special 301 as in the past, TRIPS has allowed American producers of IP--especially software, music, and movies--to pursue their anti-piracy concerns with gusto.

Below are some excerpts from the 2008 edition of the US Trade Representative's annual Special 301 report to Congress. There is a press blurb online, and taken from that is the USTR's list of the "Drrrty 46":

This year’s Special 301 Report places forty-six (46) countries on the Priority Watch List, Watch List, or the Section 306 monitoring list.

There are nine (9) countries on this year’s Priority Watch List: China, Russia, Argentina, Chile, India, Israel, Pakistan, Thailand, and Venezuela. Countries on the Priority Watch List do not provide an adequate level of IPR protection or enforcement, or market access for persons relying on intellectual property protection, in absolute terms and/or relative to a range of factors such as their level of development. Priority Watch List countries will be the subject of particularly intense engagement through bilateral discussion during the coming year.

Thirty-six (36) trading partners are on the lower level Watch List, meriting bilateral attention to address IPR problems: Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam...

Paraguay will continue to be subject to Section 306 monitoring under a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding that establishes objectives and actions for addressing IPR concerns in that country.

Meanwhile, here is executive summary from the report itself:

The “Special 301” Report is an annual review of the global state of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement, conducted by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) pursuant to Special 301 provisions of the Trade Act of 1974 (Trade Act). The 2008 Special 301 review process examined IPR protection and enforcement in 78 countries. Following extensive research and analysis, USTR designates 46 countries in this year’s Special 301 Report in the categories of Priority Watch List, Watch List, and/or Section 306 Monitoring
status. This report reflects the Administration’s resolve to encourage and maintain effective IPR protection and enforcement worldwide.

The Special 301 designations and actions announced in this report are the result of close consultations with affected industry groups and other private sector representatives, foreign governments, Congressional leaders, and interagency coordination within the United States Government. This Administration is committe to using all available methods to resolve IPR related issues and ensure that market access is fair and equitable for U.S. products of IPR intensive industries.

The Administration’s top priorities this year continue to be addressing weak IPR protection and enforcement, particularly in China and Russia. Although this year’s Special 301 Report shows positive progress in many countries, rampant counterfeiting and piracy problems have continued to plague China and Russia, indicating a need for stronger IPR regimes and enforcement in those countries.

In addition to China and Russia, the Special 301 Report sets out significant concerns with respect to such trading partners as Argentina, Chile, India, Israel, Pakistan, Thailand, and Venezuela. In addition, the report notes that the United States will consider all options, including, but not limited to, initiation of dispute settlement consultations in cases where countries do not appear to have implemented fully their obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).

In this year’s review, USTR highlights the need for significantly improved enforcement against counterfeiting and piracy, Internet piracy, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, transshipment of pirated and counterfeit goods, requirements for authorized use of legal software by government ministries, proper implementation of the TRIPS Agreement by developed and developing country WTO members, and ful implementation of TRIPS Agreement standards by new WTO members at the time of their accession.
Interestingly, the USTR notes the prevalence of online realms for piracy. Got to keep up with the changing times, y'see:
Allofmp3 (Russia). Industry reports that allofmp3 was formerly the world’s largest server based pirate music website. Although the site’s commercial operations appear to have been disabled in 2007 and a criminal prosecution is pending, other Russian-based websites are reportedly continuing operations with similar infringing content.

Baidu (China). Industry has identified Baidu as the largest China-based “MP3 search engine” offering deep links to copyright-protected music files for unauthorized downloads or streaming. Baidu is the target of ongoing infringement actions.

Business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) websites (China). A large number of these Chinese websites, such as Alibaba and Taobao, have been cited by industry as offering infringing products to consumers and businesses. The Internet traders who use these online markets to offer counterfeit goods are difficult to investigate, and contribute to the growth of global counterfeiting.

PirateBay (Sweden). Industry reports that PirateBay is one of the world’s largest BitTorrent tracker sites and a major global conduit for the unauthorized exchange of copyright-protected film and music files. PirateBay was raided by Swedish police in 2006, and the government initiated the prosecution of four Swedes associated with the site in January 2008, but the site has continued to operate, reportedly relying on servers located outside of Sweden.
There's plentiful interesting stuff in the report that should be of interest to those following IP enforcement. Of course, we cannot forget those old-fashioned marketplaces for physically traded counterfeit merchandise:
Silk Street Market (Beijing, China). Industry has cited Beijing’s Silk Street Market as
“perhaps the single biggest symbol of China’s IP enforcement problems.” In 2005, authorities began to pressure the landlords of Silk Street Market and other major retail and wholesale markets in Beijing to improve compliance with IPR laws. In 2006, right holders prevailed in several court actions related to the market, and executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the landlords in June 2006. A January 2007 industry survey of the market reportedly showed that counterfeiting has worsened, with apparent violations in 65 percent of all outlets. More recent industry reports indicate that counterfeiting at Silk Street Market remains at critical levels.

China Small Commodities Market (Yiwu, China). The China Small Commodities Market in Yiwu reportedly sells approximately 410,000 different items, mostly small consumer goods. Industry has cited the market as a center for wholesaling of infringing goods. Officials in Yiwu have met repeatedly with U.S. Government officials and stressed their work to improve IPR enforcement. Industry confirms that enforcement in Yiwu has improved. Continued improvement is needed, particularly in the area of criminal enforcement.

Gorbushka, Rubin Trade Center, and Tsaritsino Markets (Moscow, Russia). Industry representatives report that piracy problems persist in these markets, though the situation has improved at the Gorbushka and Rubin Trade Center.

Tri-Border Region (Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil). The Tri-Border Region of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil has a longstanding reputation as a hotbed of piracy and counterfeiting of many products. The U.S. Government is funding a training project through which U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials will train prosecutors, police, and customs officials from the Tri-Border Region to combat intellectual property crime. Although Ciudad del Este remains the hub for pirate activities in Paraguay, industry reports that trade there has declined and that commercial concentrations are shifting to other cities. Through a revised Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Paraguay on IPR enforcement, the United States will be encouraging Paraguay to increase enforcement action with respect to a number of specifically-identified markets in that country.

Tepito, Plaza Meave, Eje Central, Lomas Verdes, and Pericoapa Bazaar (Mexico City); Simitrio-La Cuchilla (Puebla, Mexico); San Juan de Dios (Guadalajara, Mexico); and Pulgas Mitras and La Ranita (Monterrey). An estimated 50,000 vendors sell IPR products in Mexico’s ubiquitous, unregulated street markets. Past police raids on such markets have sometimes been met with violent resistance, requiring large contingents of security personnel.

Czech Border Markets (Czech Republic). Hundreds of open air market stalls are notorious for selling pirated and counterfeit products near the Czech border, including at the notorious Asia Dragon Bazaar in Cheb City. Many of these markets are highly organized, and even advertise on the Internet.

La Salada (Buenos Aires, Argentina). This is the largest of more than 40 large, well established markets in Buenos Aires that have been cited as being heavily involved in the sale of counterfeit goods. An estimated 6,000 vendors sell to 20,000 customers daily. The market is reputed to be a haven for organized criminal gangs that operate from within it, resulting in little to no IPR enforcement.

Neighborhood of Quiapo (Manila, Philippines). Street stalls in this neighborhood are notorious for selling counterfeit and pirated merchandise. Other notorious markets in Manila include Binondo, Greenhills, Makati Cinema Square, and Metrowalk.

Harco Glodok (Jakarta, Indonesia). This is reported to be one of the largest markets for counterfeit and pirated goods in Indonesia, particularly well-known for pirated optical discs. Enforcement officials are reportedly reluctant to conduct regular enforcement actions because of the presence of organized criminal gangs.

Panthip Plaza, Mah Boon Krong (MBK) Center, Klong Thom, Patpong, and Sukhumvit Road (Bangkok, Thailand). These locations are notorious for openly selling pirated and counterfeit goods. They are all designated as “red zones” by Thai authorities, which indicates that they are places where infringing products are most readily available.