A balanced copyright regime that respects the rights of creators and users is vital for innovation and advancement of learning. The carefully balanced regime that has existed in the U.S. for the past 200 years has allowed libraries to lend books, teachers to educate their students, and innovators to bring products such as the VCR, the TiVO, and the Sling Box to the market. Sadly, agreements such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and several Free Trade Agreements show that the U.S. has given short shrift to this balance in pursuit of copyright policy abroad. Another process that shapes intellectual property (IP) policy abroad, called the Special 301, is currently underway in the Office of the United States Trade Representative (U.S.T.R.).
Under the Special 301 process the U.S.T.R. seeks input from U.S. copyright, trademark, and patent owners about whether policies and practices in foreign countries deny them adequate IP protection. The process has generally been used by IP holders to complain not only about lax enforcement in other countries, but also about limitations and exceptions in their laws that are beneficial to libraries, to education, to innovation, and to the public interest generally. The ability to comment in the Special 301 process is not limited to IP owners only. Any member of the public is free to file comments. If you believe in the importance of balanced copyright policies, file comments with the USTR and make your voice heard.
Comments can be filed electronically via http://www.regulations.gov, docket number USTR-2010-0003. You have to include the term “2010 Special 301 Review” in the “Type Comment and Upload File” field. More information about the Special 301 process is available here. Deadline for filing is February 16 by 5 p.m.