IIPA Demands Canada Be Put on 301 Priority Watch List

The IIPA (International Intellectual Property Alliance) is demanding that Canada be put on the Special 301 priority watchlist. Of course, as with how Canada ended up on the priority watchlist last year, the reasons given fall short of being credible enough to warrant being compared to places like China.

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

It may be a big thorn in the side of major corporations who deal with copyright related matters. Canada, a country some have referred to as a push-over country with regards to international pressure (Softwood lumber dispute anyone?) has remained surprisingly resilient against pressure from foreign corporations to reform copyright laws in ways that would chop Canadian innovation at its knees. Several years later, organizations like the IIPA have remained frustrated finding themselves rolling similar demands they’ve been making for years in to an ever growing list of new demands on how Canada governs itself.

Last year, Canada was placed on the Special 301 report priority watchlist and criticism about the credibility of the 301 report came hard and heavy both within Canada and abroad. If credibility were to be restored for the watchlist, it would be through, at the very least, public relations and diplomatic damage control.

Now, it has become very clear that the foreign corporate lobby groups have never learned their lesson last year and, this year, are demanding that Canada be placed again on the Special 301 report’s priority watchlist. Their demands were pretty much implementing every single provision in ACTA:

Copyright Law Reform

– Enact legislation bringing Canada into full compliance with the WIPO “Internet” Treaties (WIPO Copyright
Treaty [WCT] and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty [WPPT])
– Create strong legal incentives for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to cooperate with copyright owners in
combating online piracy
– Amend the Copyright Act to clarify the scope of the private copying exception for sound recordings
– Amend the Copyright Act to clarify liability for those who operate illicit file-sharing services, or whose actions
are otherwise directed to facilitating, encouraging or contributing to widespread infringement
– Create criminal liability and penalties for counterfeiting offenses commensurate with what is provided in the
Copyright Act

– Make legislative, regulatory or administrative changes necessary to empower customs officials to make ex
officio seizures of counterfeit and pirate product at the border without a court order.
– Complete the process of making proceeds of crime legislation applicable to proceeds from the distribution,
sale and importation of pirated goods, and make the other legal and policy changes to enforcement called
for by parliamentary committees.
– Increase resources devoted to anti-piracy enforcement both at the border and within Canada
– Direct the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), and Crown
prosecutors to give high priority to intellectual property rights enforcement, including against retail piracy and
imports of pirated products, and to seek deterrent penalties against those convicted of these crimes.

Reality check

Last year, Michael Geist did note how, when it came to countries with the worst piracy rates, Canada was nowhere to be found. While there were many other reasons to question the reason why Canada was put on the priority watchlist last year, there are even more reasons this year.

The IIPA Canada has dropped to record piracy rate lows.

There are claims out there that say how Canada’s marketplace for music is severely undermined and cannot even exist without copyright law reforms. That doesn’t really explain why the Canadian digital market place grew faster then the United States four years in a row.

What about radio listening habits? We know that the big four record labels are members of the RIAA. We also know that they are the multinational corporations leading the charge when it comes to demands as seen by the IIPA. So are Canadian copyright laws making Canada a hostile environment for the major record labels? Canoe has a list of the most played music on radio and we’ll take the chart of February 18, 2010 and use the top ten. We’ll then compare it with RIAA radar and see which ones are RIAA members

1. TiK ToK by Ke$ha – Kemosabe/RCA/RMG (Not RIAA)
2. Bad Romance by Lady GaGa – Streamline/KonLive/Cherrytree/Interscope (RIAA Label)
3. Telephone by Lady Gaga Feat. Beyonce – Streamline/KonLive/Cherrytree/Interscope (RIAA Label)
4. Two Is Better Than One by Boys Like Girls Feat. Taylor Swift – Columbia (RIAA Label)
5. Do You Remember by Jay Sean Feat. Sean Paul & Lil Jon – Cash Money/Universal Republic (RIAA Label)
6. Wavin’ Flag by K’Naan – A&M/Octone/Interscope (RIAA Label)
7. Empire State Of Mind by Jay-Z + Alicia Keys – Roc Nation (Not RIAA)
8. Sexy Chick by David Guetta Feat. Akon – Astralwerks/Capitol (RIAA Label)
9. Haven’t Met You Yet by Michael Buble – 143/Reprise (RIAA Label)
10. In My Head by Jason Derulo – Beluga Heights/Warner Bros. (RIAA Label)

8 out of the top ten singles played on radio are published through RIAA labels. Has that translated in to sales? Let’s take a look at the top ten selling albums according to Canoe. These were the top ten list as of February 11, 2010:

1. Soldier of Love by Sade – EPIC (RIAA Label)
2. Need You Now by Lady Antebellum – EMI (RIAA Label)
3. NOW! 15 by (VA) – Universal (RIAA Label)
4. Recollection by K.D. Lang – Nonesuch (RIAA Label)
5. Fame, the by Lady GaGa – Interscope (RIAA Label)
6. Crazy Love by Michael Buble – Reprise (RIAA Label)
7. 2010 Grammy Nominees by (VA) – EMI (RIAA Label)
8. I Dreamed a Dream by Susan Boyle – Sony Music Entertainment (RIAA Label)
9. E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies) by Black Eyed Peas – A&M (RIAA Label)
10. Marjo Et Hommes Vol 2 by Marjo – Sphere musique (Undetermined)

Essentially, 9/10 of the top selling albums are published, for sure, under an RIAA label. So effectively speaking, Canada has been about as hospitable of a market place as one could get to international organizations who turn around and say, “Canada lacks the marketplace integrity required for innovative digital business models to flourish as they do in other countries.” (Taken from the IIPA report arguing that Canada should be placed on a priority watchlist as mentioned above) It’s hard to ask for a more promising marketplace than in Canada and arguments that the copyright laws are supposedly outdated is anywhere from a moot point to a completely ridiculous statement as highlighted by copyright expert and Canadian lawyer Howard Knopf.

Others Echo the Sentiment on Copyright Laws in Canada

We are not alone on the scepticism of how Canada is ending up on the priority watch list. Leading technology firms including issued a comment on Canada’s copyright laws and Canada’s placement on the Priority watchlist stating, “Canada’s system of dealing with the online use and dissemination of material, including copyrighted material, is more than adequate and effective; it is a thoughtful, and in a number of cases, superior way of resolving disputes.”

They (CCIA) reason with the following:

watch-listing one nation for non-ratification of the WIPO Internet treaties would seem to require watch-listing all non-members of the WIPO Internet treaties. The European Union, for example, only just ratified the Internet treaties late in 2009, and by such logic was presumably as much a haven for pirates as Canada until that time. There is, therefore, no basis for USTR to conclude that any country does not provide adequate and effective protection based on non-ratification of any treaty: “adequate and effective protection” of intellectual property rights, by the plain, defined meaning of those terms, goes to the extent to which there is functional legal protection for particular rights under domestic law, not whether a country has taken action on a treaty.

In conclusion, there is zero reason why Canada should be placed on a watch-list, let alone a priority watch-list. Multinational companies are thriving in Canada’s marketplaces, the laws that exist in Canada today are, on a number of levels, more sound than other countries who are favoured by an organization such as the IIPA. The IIPA’s demands are, in short, baseless.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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