Monday, May 17, 2010

What is so special about Special 301 vis-à-vis China? Part IV

Previous parts can be seen here: Part I, Part II, Part III.

What was said during the Special 301 hearing about Intellectual Property in China?

So who were the four witnesses that spoke about IPR in China?

Ambassador Shaun Donnelly (Senior Director for International Business Policy of the National Organization of Manufacturers) proposed to use both a carrot and a stick. Carrot: the U.S. is already involved in capacity building, training, exchange and industry has been involved a s trade partner. "We have to convince the Chinese to deliver results. To make them clear that we hold them in IPR to a much higher standard." Stick: "If they don't that it has concrete consequences." He urged the USTR to start an Out-of-Cycle review, which involves a systematic evaluation of China's entire IPR enforcement regime, supported by submissions from U.S. manufacturers and businesses to document IPR infringement to the extent possible. This way a strategy could be devised, and a decision be made about benchmarks and on the implications of failure to deliver on the set benchmarks.

Eric Smith (International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) pointed out that although physical copyright piracy remains a problem, for most industries, the internet has taken over as the means to distribute content, including pirated content. China, with its 750 million mobile device users and where 3G broadband has just been introduced, poses a huge problem. For the IIPA criminal action against piracy is the holy grail: "We should ask our trading partners too, first, undertake more criminal actions against piracy of software in the corporate environment, against growing online and mobile device piracy of music, motion pictures, software, video games and books and journals, against continuing piracy of optical disk products and the unauthorized printing and commercial photocopying of books and journals and against the manufacturing and trafficking and circumvention devices."
Mr Smith's wish list continues:
  • Enough enforcement resources and training commensurate to the problem;
  • To remove onerous and unnecessary procedural barriers to the judiciary acting in civil and criminal cases;
  • Impose deterrent penalties in criminal cases and adequate and deterrent damages and remedies in civil cases;
  • U.S. government should ask its trading partners to encourage cooperation of ISPs with all content owners so that workable and fair notice and takedown systems and a graduated response mechanisms (3-strikes) to deal with repeat infringers online can be implemented;
  • Government agencies, contractors and educational institutions should be urged to use only legal software and legal copies of textbooks and it should be ensured that their networks and computers are not used for infringement of any copyrighted content;
  • That laws against camcording motion pictures are enacted and enforced.
Michael Mellis (Senior Vice President and General Counsel of MLB (Major League Baseball) Advanced Media L.B.) testified that his company was affected by an emerging type of telecast IP infringement: unauthorised streaming over the internet of live television programming of all types including live sports telecasts and related programming. The number of sites and services involved in this phenomenon is significant (on an annual bases tens of thousands of hours of live television programming from networks around the world are being pirated) and has grown rapidly. "Many are open doors permitting any type of television programming to be streamed live persistently and globally without authorization from copyright owners." This can be accomplished through the use of this $70 device and some software. "In our rights enforcement efforts through the past several years, during which we have identified and logged thousands of piracy incidents, the dominant pattern we have seen is piracy occurring through a streaming over peer-to-peer services based in China." According to Mr Mellis approximately 75 percent of the pirated retransmissions of the telecast have occurred through offshore sites and services and approximately 50 percent of the total through Chinese sites and services."

Streaming video via the internet presents new challenges to copyright law:
Mr Mellis: "Our domestic copyright law is clear that this is copyright infringement. However, litigation in the United States is a remedial tool available to U.S. exporters of television programming only in limited circumstances."

Mr Mellis pointed out two relevant reports about this matter:
- U.S. House of Representative, Committee of the Judiciary, 'Hearing on Piracy of Live Sport Broadcasting Over the Internet', December 16, 2009.
- OECD, 'Piracy of Digital Content', 2009.

Major League of Baseball works together with the Coalition Against Online Video Piracy(CAOVP) which has had informal discussions with Chinese government agencies.
In reply to a question Mr Mellis makes clear that he cannot quantify the damages of the telecast infringements, because of "the recency of the problem" and the unknown parts such as the size of the audience size is, who was involved beyond what we can find out through our own limited means of figuring that out, patterns of piracy. Mellis sends routinely cease and desist letters and notices to infringers abroad, in particular China. To no avail, with one exception.

Mike Palmedo (Assistent Director of the American University Washington College of Law Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) criticized the Pharmaceuticals and Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) for criticizing China's government about Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API), that the enforcement of health regulations for API, noting that chemical manufacturers may sell and ship API products to locations within China and abroad with either no regard for the intended use of the API or choosing not to comply with existing regulations. However, the enforcement of Chinese regulation of APIs is, according to Mr Palmedo, outside the scope of the Special 301 report, since it doesn't address the adequacy or effectiveness of intellectual property rights and PhRMA doesn't suggest that these Chinese health regulations deny fair and equitable market access to United States persons that
rely upon intellectual property protection. Mr Palmedo has a point. However, his conclusion "So if this complaint is included in the Special 301 report, it will be nothing more than an attempt to intimidate Chinese companies which many developing country producers rely on to produce affordable generics." is based on an assumption which is not necessarily true. The reason for it is that counterfeit pharmaceuticals that originate in China have proved lethal. In the report it says: "(..) in China, domestic chemical manufacturers that produce APIs can avoid regulatory oversight by not declaring that the bulk chemical is intended for use in pharmaceutical products. This contributes to China being a major source country for APIs used in counterfeit pharmaceutical products."

Text/Picture: Danny Friedmann

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