By Drew Wilson
There are a number of countries the International Intellectual Property Alliance wants on the US Special 301 priority watchlist. The watchlist is put together by American corporations and published on a government website after. We’ve been covering the reasons why other countries are being requested to put on the watchlist and, today, we are looking at why the organization thinks Egypt should be on the list.
We’ve been covering why the IIPA wants certain countries on a piracy watchlist. While the Special 301 watchlist is generally a discredited source of information, it does present a preview of what various rightsholerds will be lobbying for in the world. The IIPA wants Greece on the watchlist because websites aren’t blocked fast enough. The organization also wants Spain on the watchlist because authorities aren’t rubber-stamping takedown requests. Michael Geist noted earlier that the IIPA wanted Canada on the watchlist because the Canadian government offered compromises in the copyright reform legislation that offered something for consumers. So, why is Egypt on the watchlist? Here’s the first sentence of the submission (PDF):
IIPA recognizes the ongoing political situation in Egypt warrants attention, and hopes that as the situation stabilizes the government can get back to the important work of improving the business climate for creative industries in the country.
Already, there have been incidents where women are getting raped on the streets during some of the protests partly because police presence at these rallies don’t cover everything. There are also constitutional questions being raised by the current Egyptian government. All this happened after the dramatic fall of the previous ruler of the country. Apparently, that is considered a “political situation” for the IIPA and the expectation is that copyright will take priority once the government is stabilized. We’re not sure, but think that there might be more pressing issues to take care of at the moment in Egypt. Later on in the paragraph:
With legitimate copyright businesses launching in the Middle East (along with phone offerings such as the iPhone5), IIPA sincerely hopes the Egyptian government will work to ensure an adequate legal and enforcement framework exists to deal with piracy. Unfortunately, local Egyptian and U.S. right holders remain hampered by piracy and other barriers.3 Photocopy and print piracy, enterprise end-user piracy of software, and piracy of music, software, games, and movies, continued to cause losses to copyright owners in 2012. Unfortunately, the situation worsened in 2012 due to the current political instability and poor economic climate and outlook.
So, Egypt is being put on the watchlist because the government isn’t stable enough so it can look after the interest of foreign corporations. The question here is, what difference does putting Egypt on a watchlist make in Egypt?
Moving on, another complaint is lack of a copyright enforcement unit in the country. The IIPA made the following complaint in the process:
A new hurdle emerging to enforcement in Egypt is that suspects are claiming their use of illegal software is for “personal use.” Enterprises should not be able to use this excuse to escape enforcement under the law, since the nature of enterprise end-user piracy is the unfair enrichment obtained by using software without paying for it, which provides the user with an unfair commercial advantage over those who pay for their software.
While the submission focused largely on bootleg and commercial piracy, the submission did make this point about Internet piracy:
Emerging issues include dealing with electronic evidence and with Internet piracy cases. IIPA members report a general lack of police interest in piracy cases unless there are visibly large amounts of piracy or counterfeiting. As a result of this, it has been very difficult to raise significant interest in Internet cases. A recent hurdle reported could hinder efforts to address Internet piracy in Egypt or, indeed, any case involving electronic evidence.
This mirrors other complaints about lack of resources devoted copyright enforcement. The IIPA then goes further:
Apparently the Economic Courts are taking the position that unless an authorized certificate is obtained from ITIDA confirming the authenticity of an email address or website IP address, the document is deemed inadmissible as evidence. It is
critical that electronic evidence be admitted in order to effectively address copyright cases in the modern age.
The problem, again, is the fact that an IP address does not automatically lead to a guilty party. It may lead to a subscriber or the owner of a WiFi network, but it won’t necessarily lead to an individual behind the activity. So, coincidentally enough, because the courts don’t accept digital evidence, the system is actually more adequately able to handle cases of online infringement because an IP address is rightfully not reliable evidence of wrongdoing. Of course, we should emphasize that this seems to be out of coincidence rather than progressive thinking unless we see evidence to the contrary.
Perhaps a more logical approach for this would be that the IIPA recognizes the ongoing political situation and is monitoring developments. End of line. No putting the country on a watchlist because that only serves to be counterproductive or making various demands on how Egypt should run the country. If these demands are rubberstamped by the US government, it may only serve as further evidence as to why the Special 301 report can’t actually be taken seriously.
Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85