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US government publishes its latest copyright watch lists

By | Published on Friday 29 April 2022

Online piracy

The US government this week released its annual intellectual property diss list, which is basically a list of countries that need to do more to help American creators and companies enforce their copyrights and trademarks and such like. Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and Venezuela all got themselves on the priority watch list.

The office of the United States Trade Representative puts together two annual lists regarding IP infringement around the world – the notorious markets list focused on physical and digital marketplaces where rights are infringed – and this list – aka the Special 301 Report – which sets out those countries where the US reckons there are issues with the local IP laws and/or the enforcement of those laws.

Companies and organisations from across the American copyright industries input on the two lists which are then meant to inform conversations and trade talks between the US and other countries whenever IP matters come up.

The Special 301 Report doesn’t just diss those countries where concerns have been raised by American IP owners, it also bigs up those countries that have made changes to their IP systems.

Quite a few Middle Eastern countries are commended in that section this year, which is important as these are seen as markets with significant growth potential when it comes to digital music and entertainment. Countries commended in that region for recent changes to copyright and other IP systems include Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

In terms of those countries on the IP naughty step, many of the countries on the priority watch list have made changes and improvements to their copyright or wider IP regimes in recent years, but – the US copyright industries reckon – plenty more still needs to be done.

For example, the report says, “China needs to address weak enforcement channels and a lack of transparency and judicial independence”. And “India remains one of the world’s most challenging major economies with respect to protection and enforcement of IP”. And in Indonesia, “concerns include widespread piracy and counterfeiting and, in particular, the lack of enforcement against counterfeit products”.

While seven countries appear on the priority watch list, another 20 are on the slightly-less-of-a-priority watch list, those being: Algeria, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

You’ll note the latter list still includes both of the US’s neighbours, Canada and Mexico, which will definitely annoy the governments of Canada and Mexico. The new report concedes that “the United States engaged closely with Canada and Mexico on the implementation of provisions under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which entered into force on 1 Jul 2020, securing strong improvements in the protection and enforcement of IP”.

However, there remain “significant concerns regarding Canada’s IP environment” including “poor enforcement with respect to counterfeit or pirate goods at the border and within Canada [and] high levels of online piracy”. And in Mexico, “the failure to provide sufficient resources for IP protection and the absence of prioritisation on IP enforcement continues to hamper Mexico’s efforts to improve the environment for IP”.

So there you go. Launching the report US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said: “Intellectual property-intensive industries support more than 60 million jobs [in the US] – from the independent inventor just starting out to the documentary filmmaker studying critical social issues. We need robust protection and enforcement in foreign countries to protect these individuals, their livelihoods, and ensure they can fairly compete in the global marketplaces”.

“Following extensive input from a broad range of stakeholders”, she went on, “the 2022 Special 301 Report identifies trading partners that are falling short. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue to engage with these trading partners to level the playing field for our workers and businesses”.