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US Trade Representative’s annual piracy report shouldn’t name and shame American tech companies, say American tech companies

By | Published on Thursday 26 November 2020


The US Computer & Communications Industry Association has hit out at plans by the office of the US Trade Representative to include US-based websites and internet intermediaries in the next edition of its annual notorious markets piracy report.

The trade group – representing the likes of Amazon, Google, Facebook, eBay and Cloudflare – says doing so goes well beyond the remit of that report and the USTR itself.

The USTR’s annual piracy report has two sections to it, the first outlining which countries have work to do regarding the protection of intellectual property rights, and the second listing those piracy websites that are causing most concerns to the IP-owing companies of America.

The idea is that it allows the US government to put pressure on foreign governments to crack down on piracy in general and certain piracy sites specifically. And to that end, trade groups repping copyright industries, like the music industry, make submissions about their current top piracy gripes as the annual report is put together.

In recent years some of those submissions have included griping about US-based internet companies which, although entirely legitimate, provide services or platforms for third parties which infringe copyright or sell counterfeit goods. Needless to say, those companies have not been too happy with that, and Cloudflare formally complained last year when it was named in the record industry’s submission.

Amazon was also pissed off earlier this year when some of its foreign subsidiaries were actually included in the most recent version of the USTR’s report, it having been criticised by the American Apparel & Footwear Association for providing a sales platform for third parties allegedly flogging counterfeit goods.

Amazon claimed that its inclusion in the USTR’s report was politically motivated because of the ongoing beef between US President Donald Trump and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos.

This year the USTR has also more explicitly said that its next piracy report will specifically consider third-party internet intermediaries and won’t limit itself exclusively to foreign websites. Which is why the CCIA has formally hit out.

“In addition to straying beyond the purposes of the notorious markets report, the targeting of US companies would exceed USTR’s mandate”, the trade group said in a recent submission. “It is difficult to reconcile how an agency with a mandate that is narrowly focused on international trade could use its resources and authorities to examine and criticise US companies’ business practices”.

It goes on: “CCIA is unaware of any previous examples of USTR having taken similar action with respect to the protection of intellectual property or any other subject matter. Further, USTR would compromise the effectiveness of the notorious markets report as a tool for identifying foreign markets of concern and for engagement with foreign trading partners if it were to focus in the report on the practices of domestic US companies”.

On top of all that, the CIAA argues, its members “take the challenge of addressing the sale of counterfeit and pirated goods online seriously and invest heavily in programmes to address this challenge and enforce company policies against counterfeits and pirated goods”.

So, basically, copyright owners of America should shut up moaning, but – if they must moan – they shouldn’t do it when talking to a government department whose remit is entirely international trade, and should therefore only be concerned about online piracy shenanigans in other countries.

We await to see how the USTR responds.