The US authorities have placed their northern neighbour on a "priority watchlist" because, according to them, Canada is not doing enough to "combat" copyright infringement. It's all being couched in militaristic terms because there's yet another war on, dontcha know. By Martyn Warwick.
When it suits them, US political administrations (and, to be fair, also the powers-that-be north of the 49th parallel) love to bang-on about the peace and friendship that has prevailed between the two nations since the war of 1812, the Anglo-American Convention of 1818 and the Oregon Treaty of 1846. However, as many, including yours truly, know only too well, making the crossing either way between the US and Canada or Canada and the US by train or by car between Buffalo, New York and Fort Eyrie, Ontario and vice versa or across the Peace Bridge at Niagara can a deeply unpleasant and decidedly unfriendly experience.
The bureaucratic cynicism and downright bloody-mindedness that is the reality of crossing the allegedly "friendliest" national border on the planet is but a highly-focused reflection of the reality of the strange, lop-sided and indeed, jealous relationship between the US and Canada. Don't be fooled by the PR hype.
And for those that aren't, and they are legion, it comes as little surprise that out of a list of 77 national "trading partners" of the US drawn up by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) Canada is included in a sub-listing of 13 countries (the others being Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia Israel, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela) that are singled-out for special attention.
According to the USTR, "Internet piracy" is of "significant concern" and the likes of China, Russia, Venezuela and, of course, Canada have "particular problems... with respect to IPR protection, enforcement, or market access for persons relying on IPR." Thus, "Canada remains on the Priority Watch List, subject to review if Canada enacts long-awaited copyright legislation."
It seems the "Unauthorized retransmission of live sports telecasts over the Internet continues to be a growing problem for many trading partners and 'linking sites' are exacerbating the problem. In addition, piracy using new technologies is an emerging problem internationally."
What's more "US copyright industries also report growing problems with piracy using mobile telephones, tablets, flash drives, and other mobile technologies. In some countries, these devices are being pre-loaded with illegal content before they are sold. In addition to piracy of music and films using these new technologies, piracy of ring tones, apps, games, and scanned books also occurs.
Recent developments include the creation of 'hybrid' websites that offer counterfeit goods in addition to pirated copyrighted works, in an effort to create a 'one-stop-shop' for users looking for cheap or free content or goods,"
The USTR continues, "Infringement of intellectual property rights (IPR) causes significant financial losses for rights holders and legitimate businesses... It undermines key US comparative advantages in innovation and creativity, to the detriment of American businesses and workers."
Unsurprisingly, some Canadians take exception at being lumped-in with the likes of China, Russia et al and retort that the US should think about putting its own house in order before threatening unspecified "sanctions" on those nations that won't do its bidding.
Critics of US policy have some heavyweight supporters including the Australian academic Professor Peter Drahos, who specialises in intellectual property and global business regulation. He says, the American authorities act "in favour of US intellectual property owners, most often large corporations, against any foreign national policy or unofficial action that does not conform, even in its domestic legislation, to the United States' position on international copyright and IP."
The US is trying, like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dam, to hold back a deluge that will envelop and destroy an obsolete business model and regulatory environment. It is pressurising and threatening other sovereign nations in an effort to maintain an indefensible status quo. This is being done mainly at the demand of powerful lobbyists acting for vested interests in the film, television and recording industries who, naturally enough, want to continue to milk their elderly cash cows as hard as possible for as long as possible.
Nonetheless, the world has changed and will continue to change and there is nothing they can do about it - except to devise a less greedy and much fairer business and pricing model that allows consumers greater freedom over how, when and where to consume paid-for content and with whom they share it. If Hollywood and the rest of them can't do that then piracy and copyright infringement will accelerate and become even more prevalent. It really is as simple as that - and no amount of impotent bluster on the part of the USTR will make any difference whatsoever.
Threatening unspecified "sanctions" that could never be enforced is counter-productive and symptomatic of weakness rather than strength.
It was a raving Lear who threatened "I will do such things, what they are, yet I know not: but they shall be the terrors of the earth." The threat was empty and much good it did him. In this case, the same applies to the USTR.
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