Every year the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) publishes its Special 301 Report highlighting countries that aren’t doing enough to protect US intellectual property rights.
The format remains the same as in previous years and lists roughly two dozen countries that, for different reasons, threaten the intellectual property rights of US companies.
The latest report deals with a wide range of issues including several problems linked to online piracy. One of the things which stand out, is that the USTR does a fair bit of copying itself, albeit with permission.
Entire sections of the report, including the recommendations and country overviews, are identical to last year. In some cases, the US Government didn’t even bother to update the year.
“The 2017 Notorious Markets List includes examples of online marketplaces reportedly engaging in commercial-scale online piracy, including sites hosted in or operated by parties located in Canada, China, Cyprus, India, the Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and elsewhere,” USTR writes, for example.
Most of the concrete piracy related problems mentioned in the report are in line with the talking points the entertainment industries have addressed in recent years. This includes stream-ripping, illicit streaming devices, and general pirate sites.
The USTR also mentions the increase in camcording piracy in Russia, which the MPAA reported a few months ago. In addition to a “lack of enforcement against intellectual property crimes” this one of the reasons why Russia remains on the Priority Watch List in 2018.
For Canada, there is bad news as well. While the country has been on USTR’s radar for many years, it has had been moved to the Priority Watch List in 2018, making it the only G7 country among the worst offenders.
“Canada remains the only G7 country identified in the Special 301 Report and the downgrade to the Priority Watch List this year reflects a failure to resolve key longstanding deficiencies in protection and enforcement of IP,” USTR writes.
Among other things, the US sees Canada’s copyright exception for educational purposes as a grave concern.
“The United States also remains deeply troubled by the ambiguous education-related exception to copyright that has significantly damaged the market for educational publishers and authors,” USTR writes.
Whether this is a major concern for the Canadian authorities remains to be seen. Canada previously said that it doesn’t trust the validity of the Special 301 Report and that the country will follow its own path, a sentiment that it shared elsewhere too.
“Canada does not recognize the validity of the Special 301 and considers the process and the Report to be flawed,” Canada’s Government wrote in a memo, responding to an earlier 301 report.
Switzerland also remains on notice with a feature on the Watch List. Just a few months ago, the European country urged the USTR to keep it off the list, as its new copyright law addresses the major concerns the US highlighted in the previous year.
However, since the proposed law has yet to be signed into law, Switzerland will keep its spot for now. The USTR also adds that the country may want to consider consumer awareness campaigns, public education, and voluntary stakeholder initiatives to further deter piracy.
The USTR’s full 301 Watch List and Priority Watch List are listed below and the associated report is available here (pdf).
Priority Watch List
– Saudi Arabia
– Costa Rica