Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies and US Trade Policy

This AP story about China pointing to Canada could be amusing if there wasn't so much at stake.

Wang Ziqiang, a spokesman for the National Copyright Administration, argued other countries such as Canada have more serious piracy problems.

He cited a February report by the U.S.-based International Intellectual Property Alliance that put annual losses to piracy in Canada at $16.78 a person, while the figure for China was $1.68.

First, don't rule out the possibility that the USA put China up to this silly comparison. Stranger things happen in the world of trade and diplomacy. Also, it's quite clear that there is a huge "sky is falling in Canada" anti-piracy campaign underway in the lead up to the new copyright bill and other IP related efforts. The story suits China and the USA - both.

Nobody defends outright piracy in the true "counterfeiting" sense. But the industry is also happy to allow and even encourage confusion with the issue of parallel imports - which by definition are perfectly legit goods that come through a channel other than the Canadian exclusive distributor would prefer. Parallel imports are good for competition and good for consumers. Our Supreme Court is currently deliberating on a major case on this issue, in which I was involved on the pro competitive/consumer side.

Second, I'm surprised at the modesty of the numbers. According to the USA's Ambassador Wilkins as reported by Michael Geist, Canada is responsible for as much as $30 Billion a year in losses due to piracy.

That's almost $1,000 a year for every man, woman and child in Canada. That's a lot of fake Gucci purses, so-called "illegal" downloads, and phony brake pads. If this is true, it's utterly amazing that Canada still manages to exist as a viable nation. The number, of course, is pure conjecture and there is no credible basis for it.

As Sir Hugh Laddie pointed out in an electrifying panel of April 13, 2007 on the China complaint at the Fordham conference, the USA remains in clear and serious violation of international copyright law as adjudicated by the WTO and it is almost as easy to buy pirate DVDs on the streets of Manhattan as in Beijing. In fact, I understand that pirate DVDs have gone "underground" in New York only in sense of now being openly available in subway stations.


1 comment:

  1. ATTENTION: Citizens of the Free World. This is an alert code "Washington". Please spread the message far and wide. Thousands of Chinese and Indian lobbyists will be descending upon Washington DC and State Capitols nationwide Monday to ensure the growth of unregulated trade with China and India. It is important to distract these lobbyists and use whatever means necessary to prevent them from reaching their target legislators. Try a long-winded conversation about how sick your cat or dog is, and if that fails, try wine and sexual favors. Drain their bank accounts and libidos. These lobbyists must be distracted and disrupted, whatever the cost, until further notice. This is a trade war. Alert: code "Washington". Please spread the word.