U.S. Shows More Concern Over Chinese Piracy
The internationalization of intellectual property law was a topic that arose during a workshop I led last weekend at Information Today’s Buying & Selling eContent conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. Thus, I find it interesting that one of News.com‘s recent lead stories discusses the United States’ efforts to stem widespread intellectual property infringement in China.
The workshop discussion about the international aspects of intellectual property laws began with a question from Bob Pemberton, one of the workshop participants. Pemberton asked about the differences between copyright law among different countries soon after I had explained that in the United States, contract law is different from state to state, but essentially is standardized by states’ nearly universal adoption of the Uniform Commercial Code.
With respect to copyright law, I explained to Pemberton and the rest of the participants that copyright law is unique from country to country. Therefore, the copyright law of the United States is different than the copyright law of France, which is different from the copyright law of China. But I added that given international treaties and compacts like the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, copyright laws increasingly are being standardized across the industrialized nations.
I added that I find it interesting that the United States has made intellectual property protection a centerpiece of discussions it has with other nations concerning international trade. Usually, the U.S. takes a carrot-stick approach to trade negotiations, essentially saying “If you want to export certain products to the United States, you have to pledge to protect diligently American intellectual property products.” The U.S. has said this to China with increasing urgency over the last few years, so it is little surprise that American trade representatives are imploring Chinese officials to stem the flow of illegal American intellectual property (including films, music, and computer software) within its borders.
A press release issued Tuesday from the Office of the United States Trade Representative said
At [this week’s] meeting, China committed to addressing a number of U.S. trade concerns in three areas: enhancing access of U.S. companies and farmers and ranchers to the Chinese market; improving protection of intellectual property rights in China; and moving toward a transparent and market-oriented system of government procurement in China.
The Chinese agreed to the following: reopening its market to U.S. beef exports; launching negotiations to join the WTO government procurement agreement; requiring Chinese computers to use legal software; closing optical disk plants that produce pirated CDs and DVDs and stepped up enforcement of IPR; requiring all trade-related measures to be published in a single official journal; eliminating barriers to trade in medical devices; and the launching of a dialogue on the steel industry. These actions have resulted from extensive discussions between U.S. and Chinese officials over the past six months. (Emphasis added.)
One of the most interesting aspects of the give and take between the U.S. and China is that it occurs at a time when large, multinational American businesses desperately want access to the Chinese market — perhaps even more than Chinese businesses want access to the American market. This means that Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman are likely to adopt a much more conciliatory posture in negotiations with China than they would with a country like Peru, which has virtually no negotiating leverage with the U.S.
Portman’s softer tone on matters involving China is interesting even though the BSA, the software industry’s lobbying arm, identifies China as a country with the world’s third highest piracy rate. (.pdf)
Anne Broache. U.S. Calls for More Antipiracy Action from China. News.com. April 11, 2006.
Office of the United States Trade Representative. United States and Peru Sign Trade Promotion Agreement. April 12, 2006.
Office of the United States Trade Representative. United States Welcomes Chinese Action on Key Trade Issues Positive Steps on Market Access, IPR and Procurement; More Needs to Be Done. (Press release) April 11, 2006.
CopyCense. Big Software Rolls Out Piracy Frame. Dec. 14, 2005.
Office of the United States Trade Representative. The U.S. – China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) Outcomes on Major U.S. Trade Concerns. (Press release) July 11, 2005.
Pete Engardio and Catherine Yang. The Runaway Trade Giant. BusinessWeek Online. April 24, 2006.
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