Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Best of Google's White Paper: Censorship is Hurting China's Economy

Intellectual property and market access are interdependent subjects. If there is a barrier to the free flow of information (the market access is challenged, regulated or censored when it refers to copyrighted goods), no intellectual property can be exploited and this will feed a demand for pirated works and counterfeit products.

Google has problems accessing the market in China, because it cannot offer its users unrestricted access via its search engine and other applications. In the hope of solving this problem it published a white paper of 25 pages, see here: Enabling Trade in the Era of Information Technologies: Breaking Down Barriers to the Free Flow of Information, in which it appeals to basically everyone:
  • "Focus on and publicly highlight as unfair trade barriers those practices by governments that restrict or disrupt the flow of online information services.
  • Take appropriate action where government restrictions on the free flow of online information violate international trade rules.
  • Establish new international trade rules under bilateral, regional, and multilateral agreements that provide further assurances in favor of the free flow of information on the Internet."
If this does not sound very innovative to you, it is because it is not.
The most persuasive argument: internet censorship is bad for the economy of the censoring country, because it is a restraint on global trade. The other arguments (trying to stop violation of international trade treaties such as WTO's TRIPs, unfair competition and favouring indigenous industry) might all be laudable and valid, but not as compelling to China right now.

Therefore it would be interesting to elaborate how censorship is hurting China's economy and stifling innovation. More about this subject later.

UPDATE November 18, 2010:
Ronald Yu pointed me to an interesting The Register article by Cade Metz 'Baidu boss: Google don't know China' that the problems Google is facing are not only related to market access. Thanks Ron.

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