Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Murdoch, Procrustus and the WTO Copyright Cases

October 12, Sky Canaves of the Wall Street Journal has an article about Rupert Murdoch who is urging China to enforce copyright piracy and open up its market for copyrighted products. See here (or on page 8 of the printed WSJ). Mr Murdoch used the World Media Summit in Beijing to tell the Chinese leadership present that these two points are crucial if China wants to achieve their ambition to develop a global media industry.

Mr Murdoch's advice is similar to the two claims the US made against China at the WTO dispute settlement body: DS 362 (China - Measures affecting the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights) and DS 363 (Measures affecting trading rights and distribution services for certain publications and audiovisual entertainment products), based on the minimum enforcement levels of the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) an integral part of the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Agreement (WTO Agreement).

Thinking about TRIPs, and the divergent views it provokes, IP Dragon was reminded about the story of Procrustus. Procrustus was a "hospitable" man who invited guests to his home. There was one problem. If the bed was too big for the guest, Procrustus simply stretched the guest by brute force. And if the bed was too small for the guest, Procrustus would amputate the parts that could not fit in the bed. And because Procrustus had in fact two beds, no guest was ever fitting for both beds. If you are in an imaginative mood, you can see the Greek myth as a metaphor for China that was invited over to do trade under the WTO system, of which TRIPs is an integral part. Some argue that TRIPs is too demanding and that countries such as China are stretched to the limit, while some argue that TRIPs' ambition level is just too low and that more needs to be done like cutting off IPR infringing activities in China. And the two beds can be seen as a double standard in historic perspective: when the developed countries were developing, for example when the US broke free from Brittain, they were infringing IPR as well, and now that they are a developed country to expect developing countries to protect and enforce the same minium standards of IPR rights. Even though TRIPs has built in some flexibilities, it is considered by some as a straight jacket, a "one size fits all", "take it of leave it" treaty.
Picture is taken by exo_sh

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

About this argument that the U.S. infringed IPR when we were developing, so now China should be able to:

China has a 5,000 year old culture, remember? How much time do we need to give them to develop?