Canadian Government Doesn’t See Validity in USTR Special 301 Report

The USTR’s Special 301 report has been well known for being essentially a wish-list put together by the US copyright industry. Over the last few years, doubts have been raised over the validity of the report by many observers. It now appears that the Canadian government also shares those doubts.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The Special 301 report is most famous for its watch-lists and priority watch-lists. It singles out different countries over copyright related issues. It’s also known for being little more than a glorified wish list by the major corporate copyright industry such as the RIAA, MPAA and BSA to name three entities. The report has been used for a long time to pressure other countries into compliance with US demands.

Canada received a particularly large amount of attention partly because many well known experts follow Canadian affairs on the copyright debate, but also because it’s peculiar placement on the priority watch list. There was a particularly large amount of pressure for Canada to remain on the priority watch list. The reason? Not because there are street vendors in every street corner selling bootleg copies of the latest movies. It is because Canada hasn’t passed copyright reform to the US industry’s liking. It’s a rather strange reason given that the US is placing Canada amongst other countries such as China and Russia. Technically speaking, Canada would have passed copyright reform had it not been for consecutive minority governments and large outcry for selling out Canada to US interests by repeated attempts to table what are known as Canadian DMCAs.

Over the years since Canada was placed on the priority watch list, serious questions were raised over the validity of the Special 301 report. Specifically, what empirical evidence supports Canada being amongst the worst offending countries in the world? What prevents this list from simply being an arbitrarily put together list? Why are there so many countries placed on that list? It’s questions like this that grew louder and skepticism over the lists only grew.

With fewer and fewer people buying what is being said in these reports, it now seems that even the Canadian government doubts the validity of the reports. According to a report on Law.com, Industry Canada, an arm of the Canadian government, isn’t really convinced by the findings of the Special 301 report.

“Canada does not recognize the validity of the Special 301 process, which relies on industry allegations rather than empirical evidence and analysis,” a spokeswoman for Industry Canada, an agency comparable to the U.S. Department of Commerce, said via e-mail to Law.com.

Ouch. All this effort to pressure (many say “bully”) countries like Canada to pass very strict copyright laws through this report seems to not be working. It says a lot about the report given that Canada, when it comes to copyright reform in the past, is more than happy to just bend to American influence thanks to lobbying if you’ve read what was in Bill C-60 during the last Liberal government and Bill C-61 during the previous Conservative government. If those bills weren’t enough to convince you that Canada has a history of bending to the US’s whims on copyright matters, just check out where this quote came from: “We Don’t Care What You Do, As Long as the U.S. Is Satisfied”. If all that isn’t good enough, check out how fast Canada moves when the US starts changing their own copyright rules around much more recently (as opposed to public outcry from Canadian entities, organizations, artists, rights groups and citizens).

So, after all of this, I’d say it’s a very significant development that even Canada is skeptical of the validity of the Special 301 report. The Canadian government saying that the report uses industry allegations rather than actual evidence is huge not only for Canada actually starting to think for themselves, but also shows just how questionable the Special 301 report actually is.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.



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