What the State of the Union “Piracy” Reference Means
What the State of the Union “Piracy” Reference Means
What the State of the Union “Piracy” Reference Means

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    It doesn’t take much to excite the Twitterverse. President Obama
    in his State of the Union speech made a passing reference to intellectual
    property enforcement, perhaps to try to appease the Motion Picture Association
    of America (MPAA).  It was
    relatively benign, as he said only that foreign piracy hurts trade, but my
    reader exploded with “Obama’s flipping on PIPA/SOPA! Betrayal!” While I have no
    reason to believe that the Administration is backing away from its current
    hard-line position against PIPA/SOPA, it doesn’t have to in order to show MPAA
    some love.

    of the key proposals was a beefed up task force for intercepting counterfeit goods. If it focuses on stopping delivery of
    counterfeit goods at the border, then excellent! That is exactly the kind of
    enforcement we need to keep things like fake heart medicine out of the country.
    (On the other hand, if they try to make ICE-style seizures of domain names on dubious
    , then we’ve got a problem.)

    But there is a larger, and more dangerous context to what the
    President discussed when he talked about international trade deals.  They are not simply about improving the
    economy and creating economic opportunity.  They are also a backdoor enforcement mechanism for those
    familiar special interests in Big Content.

    While PK has labored in this particular vineyard for years, few
    Americans know that Big Content, the people who brought you the Stop Online
    Piracy Act (SOPA), has long been in the driver’s seat on negotiating
    international trade agreements. They have their own Federal Advisory Committee so they can “advise” the U.S. Trade Representative, see advance copies of treaty drafts, and
    generally make sure that they get whatever their little heart desires.

    For example, the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (“KOROUS”), which
    the President referenced when he made his remarks about foreign piracy being
    bad, contains a chapter forcing Korea to adopt all kinds of new laws to address “Internet piracy” that won KORUS the Big Content
    Seal of Approval” back when it was negotiated in 2007.

    Of course, the problem with Big Content is that it is never
    satisfied. What they called “very strong” and said they “fully supported” in
    KOROUS at first, they now characterize as so weak that it practically promotes
    piracy. As a result, Big Content keeps upping
    the level of crazy stuff they insist must go in our free trade agreements
    , like they did in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade
    Agreement (ACTA) that is due to be signed by the European Commission member
    countries on Jan. 26 in Japan. 

    The U.S. has already signed, but the ruckus over PIPA/SOPA has
    prompted those countries in the world considering signing on to take a hard look and reconsider.

    Even as those second looks are going on,  Big Content is now busily at work making
    sure that SOPA-like provisions are included in the current big regional trade
    agreement under negotiation — the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (“TPP”). Their
    strategy includes making sure no one who isn’t 100% behind the SOPA Agenda
    shows up at the negotiations.

    For example, the International Intellectual Property Association
    (IIPA), the division of Big Content that takes the lead on international
    agreements like this, continues to insist that Canada is unworthy to join the negotiations on TPPA until it adopts
    something SOPA-like
    . (Unfortunately for Canada, it looks like the current Canadian government is looking to do
    exactly that

    In addition, Big Content gets its annual chance to pressure all
    countries to adopt their dream list through something called the annual Special 301 process. By law, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) must compile a list
    of countries that don’t do enough to protect our intellectual property. This
    report long ago became a way for Big Content to pressure other countries to
    adopt their own SOPAs.

    The USTR agrees with the IIPA recommendations for who goes on the
    Special 301 naughty list a stunning 91% of the time. As a result, we see the recent spectacle of our own State Department
    pressuring Spain to adopt the Spanish version of SOPA by threatening to put them on the Special 301 naughty list.

    SOPA would have been bad enough in the U.S.  There’s no reason why we should try to
    export it to the rest of the world.