Friday, July 30, 2010

TGIF: Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Says The Darndest Things

Online copyright piracy is a serious problem. China has started a campaign of three months to blacklist websites with pirated content so that Chinese telecom operators can take them offline. Now one can question the effectiveness of this temporary measure, see here. But there are even worse solutions... Look at the idea of Brad Sherman, U.S. democratic representative, which goes.. let's say a bridge too far. Doug Palmer reported for Reuters that Sherman said the U.S. government should use cyber-combat techniques to take down internet sites in China, Russia and other countries that sell pirated U.S. music and movies. Of course the US could take Chinese websites offline if they are based on servers in the US, subject to US laws. But if the servers are in China, this would be obviously a violation of China's sovereignty and could be answered with similar cyber-combat strikes at US websites based on US servers.

Incredibly, Victoria Espinel, the US White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator responded allegedly, according to Palmer's Reuters article: "That is something we're actively investigating." And then Espinel allegedly continued: "But while it is technically possible, it does not take long for the sites to pop up in new locations." Was she seriously considering this or just like a thought experiment? Read more here.

The same article is a nice follow-up on the misguided use of hyperboles when one only wants to say that the level of IPR enforcement in China is unacceptably low. Sir Arthur Bamford called it "cancer", see here, and William Delahunt is taking the hyperbole one step further and calls China's low IPR enforcement "economic terrorism". These words are probably not conducive to solving the IPR enforcement challenge in China.

One might better use arguments for protection and enforcement of IPR in China (regardless whether these are in the hands of domestic or international companies/persons) that show China's advantages, based on David Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage, and disadvantage if it engages in mercantilistic policies. This is hard, now that China's economy is so successful and the importance of its domestic market is growing. Ms Espinel, and many international IPR holders are facing a daunting task to protect and enforce IPR in China.

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