The American copyright industry generates billions of dollars in annual revenue and is generally seen as one of the primary export products.
Whether it’s movies, music, software or other goods, US companies are among the market leaders.
To protect the interests of these businesses around the globe, copyright holder groups can often rely on help from the US Government. The yearly list of ‘notorious markets,’ for example, is a well known diplomatic pressure mechanism to encourage other countries to up their enforcement actions and improve laws.
The same is true for trade deals and other policies, which often require trade partners to take actions in favor of copyright holder interests.
The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), which represents the ESA, MPA, and RIAA, among others, has been the voice of major entertainment industries on this front. The Alliance regularly encourages the U.S. to further the interests of its members, and it currently has its eyes set on Africa.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act
Specifically, the IIPA has taken an interest in the latest eligibility review of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). This process, lead by the US Trade Representative (USTR), determines which sub-Saharan African countries can enjoy the trade benefits of this legislation.
The idea behind AGOA is to improve economic relations between the African region and the US. However, African countries first have to qualify and that comes with certain restrictions, including a clause that prohibits states from opposing US foreign policy.
The IIPA, for its part, would like to use the legislation to improve copyright laws and strengthen anti-piracy measures. While copyright holders support growth in African countries, they say that the growth of Internet access comes with a major downside; piracy.
“This impressive technological growth, unfortunately, is accompanied by illegitimate activities that will hamper legitimate economic growth if left unchecked,” the IIPA warns the USTR.
“To effectively ensure a safe, healthy, and sustainable digital marketplace, AGOA eligible countries should assess whether their legal regimes are capable of responding to today’s challenges, including rampant online piracy.”
African Countries Should Do More to Tackle Piracy
The copyright holders would like sub-Saharan African countries to have copyright laws and policies that offer optimal protection against piracy.
At the moment, this is not the case, IIPA says, noting that several AGOA countries have “inadequate and ineffective” copyright protection, “deficient local laws,” as well as “weak enforcement.”
“These shortcomings enable parties to engage in piracy, some on a commercial scale, because it is a high-profit, low risk enterprise, unencumbered by the considerable costs associated with either producing and licensing works, or protecting them against theft,” the group notes.
In its submission, the IIPA is mostly concerned with Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. The criticism of South Africa isn’t new. Rightsholders have mentioned piracy and fair use concerns repeatedly over the past several months.
This apparently made an impact as President Ramaphosa sent two controversial new bills back to Parliament for a do-over last month.
Kenya also proposed new legislation, but this isn’t up to par either, according to US rightsholders. The same is true for Nigeria, which should require ISPs to take action against persistent pirates while extending the copyright term for sound recordings to 70 years.
Ideally, these African countries should be encouraged to work with copyright holders and the US Government to implement adequate laws. If not, the US Government should question whether they can still enjoy the AGOA benefits, IIPA says.
“We urge the Administration to continue to consider copyright laws and enforcement practices under the intellectual property eligibility criteria of AGOA,” the group concludes.
A copy of the IIPA’s full submission for the “2020 AGOA Eligibility Review” is available here (pdf)