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US Ignores Unwelcome WTO IP Rulings 448

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do dept.
Eye Log writes "The United States is a big fan of leaning on other countries to tighten IP and copyright protection, but has a tendency to ignore its own obligations when it doesn't get its way. 'Two ongoing cases illustrate the point. First, the European Union is pushing for the US to change a pair of rules that it calls "long-standing trade irritants." Despite World Trade Organization rulings against it, the US has not yet corrected either case for a period of several years... Apparently, it's easy to get hot and bothered when it's industries from your country that claim to be badly affected by rules elsewhere. When it comes to the claims of other countries, though, even claims that have been validated by the WTO, it's much easier to see the complexity of the situation, to spend years arguing those complexities before judges, and to do nothing even when compelled by rulings.'"
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US Ignores Unwelcome WTO IP Rulings

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  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:00PM (#22876614)
    Back in the 80s the US even ignored a ruling from the World Court to cease it's terrorist activities in Nicaragua, which included mining the harbours and putting civilian shipping in great danger. It even ignored the two subsequent UN General Assembly resolutions demanding that it observe the World Court Ruling.

    It basically comes down to this. If you are powerful, you can ignore the rules. If you are not, you may well be in serious trouble.
  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:05PM (#22876662)

    "As the stakes continue to grow in the intellectual property arena,


    growing?

    what fantasy world are these guys living in?

    Sure the number of IP claims are going up, but the value to the public is clearly going down, and p2p isnt going anywhere.

    They can claim "growing stakes" all they wish, but the voracity of their claims extend only as far as the walls of their ivory towers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:07PM (#22876680)
    Many nations of EU will ignore their legal obligations. They are signatories to Kyoto, but are doing their best to play games with it. Germany, and even France are great examples of this. And yes, as I recall, all of the great nations of EU have violated various WTO rulings as well.
  • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:09PM (#22876696) Journal
    I don't think that's flamebait at all: US corps act in their own interest exclusively, with no concern for "fairness". That's even a legal requirement of the directors and officers of a corp.

    Of course a corporation uses it's influence to try to get favorable WTO rulings enfored with an iron fist, and unfavorable rulings delayed or ignored. That's how they're supposed to act. Ideally congresscritters would care about the people they represent, but it's hardly news that they instead care about they corporations that they represent.

    I disagree that the "US government considers themselves to be kings of the world and that their laws and points of view should prevail over everything and everyone else", as the "US government" isn't a person, it's composed of people who are just trying to do what's best for their campaign contributers.
  • by commodoresloat (172735) * on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:30PM (#22876856)

    Back in the 80s the US even ignored a ruling from the World Court to cease it's terrorist activities in Nicaragua
    The Supreme Court just ruled [google.com] that U.S. states can now pretty much ignore international law at will. It's not clear to me how this affects the federal obligation to obey treaties (which is pretty clear in the Constitution), but at the state level, we'll be seeing a lot more of this sort of thing.
  • Re:Autonomy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by treesloth (1095251) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:42PM (#22876972)
    I didn't, and those organizations have become so hostile to some of the member nations that it's about time to start telling them to go screw themselves. Beyond that, the only remaining option is to withdraw, which also wouldn't break my heart.
  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @10:04PM (#22877162)
    but it is a sad truth.

    No, it's a glad truth.

    The Revolutionary War took place due to a foreign "government" trying to rule US citizens. The breaking point was taxation without representation, but mostly it was all laws without representation.

    Of COURSE the US laws and points of view prevail IN THE US over anything else. We are a soverign nation. We have our own laws and our own courts. We aren't SUPPOSED to be controlled by every other country on the planet. Our SCOTUS isn't SUPPOSED to be considering other country's laws when they rule on laws we have passed here, they have a Constitution they are supposed to consider as supreme.

    That Constitution says nothing about the WTO getting to change US laws they don't like. It says nothing about UN Resolutions. Our government tops out at the federal level.

    I'm GLAD that it is that way. If I wanted to live under the laws of Germany, I'd move there. If I wanted Sharia (sp?) law, I'd move to a country that has that. If I think Germany has a stupid law, I have every right to say that, but there is no mechanism for me to force them to change their laws, NOR SHOULD THERE BE. Nor should there be a mechanism for Germans to force a change to our laws. And if using a specific country as an example confuses things, simply replace Germany with any other country. England, Germany, China, Japan, Sweden, whatever.

    If that sounds like flamebait, well, I get tired of hearing people say things like 'The WTO says we are wrong to do X, so obviously we are wrong to do X and our laws must conform.' No. It is not obvious. We do NOT have to do what the WTO says we must. If we listen to the WTO and AGREE, well, that's one thing, but agreement isn't automatic. We can also listen and disagree, and if we disagree, we don't have to act.

    It's like saying that the President doesn't listen to Sheehan or any other protesters because he doesn't immediately do what they demand. Yes, he listens, but he was elected to make choices, and not every person is going to agree with every choice. That's life.

  • Re:Autonomy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @10:19PM (#22877272)
    We should stay in their little play-group for one reason only: To listen to them bitch and moan.

    The UN has really only 1 good purpose: for countries to express grievances against other countries. Sort of a world embassy.
  • Re:Usual Drivel (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @11:02PM (#22877670)
    Think of it as an Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. Sure, it may be good for the US in the short term to disregard the rest of the world, but in the long term it will be quite bad for you when nobody will do business with the US because they can't be trusted.
  • The Republic is dead (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @11:24PM (#22877850)
    The USA died long ago and it has been a slow gradual death; although, recent years have been moving faster - as if its the last breath.

    Biggest mistake in the constitution has always been the clause about treaties. Treaties should be at least as difficult as passing a law if not more so.

    The constitution is "quaint" and is no longer the law of the land. USA is dead. What we have is USA Inc.
  • No. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kamapuaa (555446) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @11:32PM (#22877910) Homepage
    The so-called "Irish Music" dispute concerns the portion of US copyright law that lets restaurants and shops play broadcast music without compensating the copyright holders. As previous coverage of this issue shows, Europe takes a fairly hard-line stance on these payments; a UK car repair chain was even targeted by collecting societies because its mechanics played their radios loud enough that customers could hear them.

    I don't own an American restaurant, but in Slashdot's constant whining about the RIAA, one of the whines I hear is that restaurants have to pay copyright holders to play music at their radio, and how the RIAA even pays people to go to restaurants and mark down whether or not their is RIAA music being played. I know that music venues with live bands covering RIAA music are responsible. So I doubt this example is even true.

    And as far as Havana Club goes - I agree the US is in the wrong, and furthermore I'm not a resident of the US and think the Havana Club 7 is about as good as rum gets. However a further issue is that in the US, the copyright was granted to the family that owned the rum, before the Cuban government nationalized the factory and the family fleed to the US. Let me repeat: it was a family business that was stolen by the government. So I think it's reasonable that the family should be able to hold on to (and eventually sell) their rights to the name - or at least, I can sympathize.

    The author of he article doesn't do himself any favors with his tone, rather than an impartial reporter he comes across as a whiny teenager. I guess samzenpus is new, and already I'm rooting for him to go the way of michael and timothy.

  • Sigh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @11:51PM (#22878050)

    Problems like this go back long before Bush and Cheney (though they've refined the whole arrogance/prickishness thing to the status of art): one set of rules for the United States, another set for everybody else. And yet, for some reason, Americans feel hurt and a little bewildered when they find out how unpopular they are in the rest of the world. The comfortable answer is, "Everybody envies us because we're just so absolutely wonderful". The actual answer is that this kind of behaviour makes it easy to be disliked.

    Americans have long made a point of passing themselves off as Canadians when traveling abroad (even to the point of wearing the Maple Leaf). Unfortunately they persist in acting like Americans, which is giving Canadians a bad name, especially in Europe. Or (as has happened to me in England on two occasions) you get politely grilled about All Things Canadian and eventually asked flat-out to show some ID proving you're from the Bigger Colder Place.

    I'm not sure how to fix the problem when the overwhelming majority of Americans don't even believe that there is one, but it really needs to be addressed unless the United States wants to become increasingly isolated and ignored on the international stage.

  • by hxnwix (652290) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:01AM (#22878112) Journal

    I don't think that's flamebait at all: US corps act in their own interest exclusively, with no concern for "fairness".
    The comment to which you reply and the article both bemoan the US government's failure to uphold valid international judgments that happen to go against US companies. This isn't about fairness - failure to abide by WTO judgments certainly represents treaty violation and, by definition, infringes upon international law.

    Above all else, the US government is obligated to obey by the rule of law.

    the "US government" isn't a person, it's composed of people who are just trying to do what's best for their campaign contributers.
    No. I'm sorry; the US government is not the fucking mafia. Corporations may lobby the government to do anything whatsoever, but the government must stop short of doing those things that are illegal.

    I hope I've managed to put this into better context for you. To reiterate:

    Legal: US may do.
    Illegal: US MAY NOT DO.

    One more time: No. The answer to illegal requests is always no, and it doesn't matter who the fuck is asking. If it does, it's a crime.
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:29AM (#22878276) Journal
    Congress is obliged to pass laws enforcing treaties with other sovereign states which it has passed. I mean, that's the whole point of a treaty.

    The US may want to reconsider its behavior. It's failing dollar, failing industries and general economic decline means WTO-sanctioned actions against it may in the future have a far more potent result. Today it's tiny little guys like Antigua, but imagine if China or the EU were given similar favorable rulings. It could devastate already-ailing industries.
  • by watzinaneihm (627119) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:30AM (#22878280) Journal
    Apparently US legal system is a bit messy. Eventhough the federal government has to obey the treaties, according to the supreme court, States do not have to [npr.org] obey all treaties.
    Not justifying the US actions here, but occasionally foreign courts refuse [nytimes.com] to obey US courts - I agree that disobeying US court orders (whose opinions are valid through bilateral treaties) is slightly different from WTO obligations, but I think in general we can safely say that international law is not always smooth
  • by laughingcoyote (762272) <barghesthowl.excite@com> on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:22AM (#22878602) Journal

    I'm quite aware of the difference. (Though it's hard to see how one is not copyrighting an "idea" when even a snippet of a few notes or a few lines can be seen as subject to copyright.) Believe me, I hate the term "intellectual property" as much as anyone, because patents, trademarks, and copyrights are totally disparate concepts, and lumping them together just doesn't work. Here, however, the discussion is of patents, which are an exclusive right to an idea or concept, not just an implementation of it. (This was not the intent, patents were originally indeed on specific types or implementations, such as on a certain design of a machine or engine.)

    However, the copyright system is badly broken as well, if nothing else than by virtue of its length. Why should it be longer than five to ten years? That will still provide incentive for creators to create. After all, the vast majority of copyrighted works have either turned a profit after five years or never will at all. I cannot honestly imagine an author saying "Oh, well, I'd write my book if I could copyright it for life plus seventy, but not if it's only for ten years!" Nor can I imagine the music industry saying "Oh, our new hit single will only make us $30 million, we'll lose out on the $2 million we'd make after ten years is up! No way, not doing it."

    It's also broken by virtue of "automatic" copyrights, since that makes effectively everything copyrighted, many times without an effective means to contact the copyright holder, possibly without any clue who that even is. Technically, this post is copyrighted. If you wanted to repost it somewhere, and you had a legal department breathing down your neck, you would have that as a worry. (Though, for clarity, I couldn't care less if anyone wants to copy my posts and invite them to do so if desired.) That creates a vast body of orphaned but copyrighted work, where the copyright holder is unclear or unreachable. Mandatory registration would eliminate that issue, ensuring that, firstly, only works which the author genuinely wants copyrighted are brought under protection, and that a copyright holder is on record if one should wish to contact them for permission.

    I saw an interesting concept a short while back, and quite like it. The concept was that copyright registration would again become mandatory. Copyright holders could renew a copyright for as long as they wish, with only one caveat. The first year's copyright would cost $1, the second $2, the third $4, the fourth $8, and continuing on to double every year. That places short copyrights well within the financial reach of any citizen, while placing overlong copyrights well out of reach of even the richest corporation, and encourages work to be released to the public domain as soon as it is no longer significantly profiting the holder. I think something similar could work for patents as well, let them keep it as long as they want it, but the price continues to go up, and eventually, it will get to the point where it is no longer worth it or simply not even conceivable.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:48AM (#22878736)

    I'll assume you have some idea of just how much of the US economy is based off-shore. It would not be possible to simply repudiate that part of the debt held by one country and not involve the rest of the international trade/banking system.

    I imagine the first thing that would happen is that US liquid assets abroad would be frozen, and eventually confiscated to pay creditors. American-registered corporations could expect to have some portion of their assets taken, or perhaps their firm assets (oil pipelines, factories, etc.) simply nationalized by the host countries. The US is a net importer of so many resources and products in so many sectors I couldn't begin to enumerate them. Especially in the resource sector, suppliers are in a much stronger position in such cases. Do you think the governments China or Saudi Arabia have to beg their people to deal with the drop in revenue while new markets are developed and the US is frozen out? Payment up-front would be the rule of the day, especially for materials, products and services your manufacturing and supply sectors need to continue operations. Attempts to access international credit would be unlikely at best until repayment of current debts had been arranged.

    I could go on. I trust you get the point.

  • by mweather (1089505) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @02:08AM (#22878832)
    Treaties are only the law of the land if they don't violate the constitution. The founders weren't retarded.
  • by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @02:26AM (#22878890) Journal

    It's hypocritical for representatives of the US government to lambaste other countries for WTO "violations", when the US Government turns a blind eye to infringement happening in their own country.
    Exactly what infringement is that? Does the US government turn a blind eye to DMCA violations? Or better yet, does Europe honor each and every DMCA violation? Because the first instance, the Irish music situation is just ridiculous according to US law. Or do you think it is a fair trade that we don't pass a law making sure foreign entities get paid for something American entities don't over the same actions and most of Europe can still ignore the DMCA take down notices and copy protection circumvention laws.

    BTW, The DMCA was mandates by a WIPO treaty so other signatories have to take some steps towards that. The DMCA goes further then WIPO requirements though.

    The Havana club ordeal is just silly- we have the right to refuse to honor Cuban goods and products after what they did. If another company helped them do it or purchased the goods, then that is their problem. It would be like saying you knew the car had a flat tire and purchased it anyways. Besides, that happened well before the WTO came into existence in 1995.

    The third, the on line gambling represent the sovereignty of the nation and isn't subject to an outside country demanding laws. I don't care if you support gambling or not, the US government only has so much control and the states have theirs. That is the way we operate and always will. Another country isn't going to make us change our constitution or dictate our laws because of constitutional limitations on our government. I would support an embargo or the searching of every ship entering and leaving Antigua for pirated materials if they started pirating stuff just because they are attempting to exploit a loophole.
  • Re:Paying for radio? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jeppe Utzon (721797) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @05:13AM (#22879492) Homepage

    How is Europe so completely backwards on this issue? Every pair of ears that listens to the songs is a pair of ears that listens to the ads as well, and those ads pay the bills. I would think the radio stations and music labels would be GLAD to have people listening to them in workplaces and waiting rooms.
    You are assuming that all radio stations play ads. That isn't always true in Europe.
  • by freedom_india (780002) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @05:42AM (#22879608) Homepage Journal
    http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artman/publish/article_7779.shtml/ [capitolhillblue.com]

    Quoted from article:

    "I don't give a goddamn," Bush retorted. "I'm the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way."

    "Mr. President," one aide in the meeting said. "There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution."

    "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"

    I've talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution "a goddamned piece of paper."

    And, to the Bush Administration, the Constitution of the United States is little more than toilet paper stained from all the shit that this group of power-mad despots have dumped on the freedoms that "goddamned piece of paper" used to guarantee.

    Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, while still White House counsel, wrote that the "Constitution is an outdated document."
    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,198829,00.html/ [time.com]
  • by freedom_india (780002) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @07:10AM (#22879904) Homepage Journal

    Many things in life are about the money but getting fair political representation really shouldn't be one.
    True. But look at the state of affairs. PACs and vested interests, plus corporates (which ironically cannot vote) get laws passed to suit them.
    Take for instance Conagra's insistence on replacing sugar with sucrose, or banana growers, or even US Steel makers.
    Take for instance copyrights and patents. Even though ONLY Humans can invent anything, corporates own the patents! Justify that.
    Can a corporation "invent" anything? Can it go out and vote? Can it even climb a podium and give a "I have a dream..." speech?
    And yet, such corporates which pay less than 25.7% corporate income taxes in their bracket get pehnomenal breaks.

    Link that to huge donations to campaign funds of senators who helped pass the laws (Orrin Hatch, Rockefeller, etc) and i see more than smoke.

    There is no fair representation unless you raise your funds exclusively from only human voters in very small amounts. That way you are not bound to obey corporate diktats.

  • by MrNemesis (587188) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @08:24AM (#22880304) Homepage Journal
    I'd love to mod you up insightful, because you make the GP's point even better than he does. There's a vocal minority (hopefully it's a minority anyway) of Americans, like yourself, that seem to love to say "fuck you rest of world, we're better, so fnaar!". It's on the level of the sort of humour you get up to in the playground when you're six.

    Individually, all of the americans I've met in person and on the internet (even the ones who pretend to be Canadian - by the way, you need to work on your accents ;)) has been as nice as pie. But as a country you seem terribly good at thinking the world revolves around you. Most Brits learned this lesson last century, IMHO to the long-term benefit of the country. I'd like to think the US can too.

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