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US Blocking Costa Rican Sugar Trade To Force IP Laws 441

For the last couple of days news has been trickling in about how the US is trying to ram IP laws down Costa Rica's throat by blocking their access to the US sugar market. Techdirt has a good summary of the various commentaries and a related scoop in the Bahamas where the US is also applying IP pressure. "The first is in Costa Rica, which is included in the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Yet like with other free trade agreements that the US has agreed to elsewhere, this one includes draconian intellectual property law requirements. I still cannot understand why intellectual monopoly protectionism — the exact opposite of 'free trade' — gets included in free trade agreements. At least in Costa Rica, a lot of people started protesting these rules, pointing out that it would be harmful for the economy, for education and for healthcare. So the Costa Rican government has not moved forward with such laws. How has the US responded? It's blocking access to the US market of Costa Rican sugar until Costa Rica approves new copyright laws."
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US Blocking Costa Rican Sugar Trade To Force IP Laws

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  • "Free" like I say (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @02:45PM (#30810772)

    I still cannot understand why intellectual monopoly protectionism -- the exact opposite of "free trade" -- gets included in free trade agreements...

    Cuz increasingly that's all we have left. Especially now that money-printing business has hit the fan.

  • by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @02:48PM (#30810802) Journal

    It's all because of a nice little corrupt procedure called lobbying. Those with the most money dictating law to the lawmakers over a nice lunch.

  • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @02:48PM (#30810806)

    I can't think of many countries that don't use tariffs or trade restrictions to promote their own national interests in some way. It may be stupid and benefit no one in the end, but it's still within a nation's rights to take their ball and go home.

  • Legality (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Uranium-238 ( 1586465 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @02:51PM (#30810830)
    I was going to say "is that even legal?" but since it's part of their trade agreement I suppose it was to be expected, but that's still pretty low of the US to block access to the sugar market. Pro tip: sell your sugar to to Europe!
  • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @02:51PM (#30810834) Homepage

    US produces IP and wants to protect it.
    Sugar being a tangible item is what Costa Rica produces.
    You want to trade with the US you should play by US rules. The US want to trade with Costa Rica we play by Costa Rican rules, thus the trade agreement.

    I see nothing wrong here.

    Why these trade rules aren't being used to enforce environmental agreements and not IP ones is somewhat beyond me.


  • by bughunter ( 10093 ) <bughunter&earthlink,net> on Monday January 18, 2010 @02:53PM (#30810860) Journal

    ... doesn't mean they were wrong.

    Congratulations, the West was so focused on preventing communist totalitarians from taking over the world we've let capitalists move in and fill the niche.

    The One World Government is here. But it's not a communist state, it's a kleptocracy.

    (Hey, but at least we have Avatar and deep fried butter to distract us.)

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:04PM (#30810992)

    Free trade is to stop nations from creating safe havens for their producers by erecting unfair barriers to trade not to allow anyone to take whatever IP they want and use it as they see fit.

    Free trade is where I say 'hey, I've got this widget, you want to buy it?' and you say 'sure, here's $10' and we exchange cash for widget, without the government interfering at any point.

    You don't need huge treaties for free trade, you just need governments to get out of the way.

  • by neoform ( 551705 ) <> on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:05PM (#30811006) Homepage
    The problem occurs when you disagree with American IP laws.. US Patents are ridiculous, Copyright terms are way too long.. and punishments for infringement are far too severe.
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:06PM (#30811012) Homepage Journal

    And the sad thing is that if Costa Rica tells us to go fsck ourselves, while it will hurt Costa Rica's economy, all it will do here is help sell even more High Fructose Corn Syrup and help the corn lobby here.

  • by ifwm ( 687373 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:15PM (#30811108) Journal

    Costa Rica and the USA are members of the WTO. That does limit their freedom to take their ball and go home.

    LOL @ U

    WTO membership limits US trade freedom in the same way speed limits "limit" the speed of the richest most powerful citizen in a small town.

    Even if they get caught speeding, worst case is they just pay the fine and speed away...

  • by jvillain ( 546827 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:15PM (#30811112)

    Have to agree. If you think a country is in violation of the WTO obligations then you take your case to the WTO, not act unilaterally. Why any country would bother signing any agreement with the US any more is way beyond me. They never hold up their end of any agreement any more. Every day I dread ACTA more and more and more.

  • by robo45h ( 660508 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:18PM (#30811142)

    Free trade is where I say 'hey, I've got this widget, you want to buy it?' and you say 'sure, here's $10' and we exchange cash for widget, without the government interfering at any point.

    You don't need huge treaties for free trade, you just need governments to get out of the way.

    Sounds nice but is completely incorrect. A huge percentage of the present US economy is based on intellectual property: computer software, television shows, movies, music, the designs of complex things (computer chips, etc.).

    The only way to generate money from IP is to use governments to create and enforce laws. Otherwise, people will just make free copies of things.

    Now, note that if you want to say that this is OK, that is fine, but it's a completely different argument. You would be destroying the present US economy and our present bad economic situation and huge US debt would be made much, much worse. The argument at hand is the /. author's comment of whether IP should be part of a free trade agreement, and the answer is an unequivocal "yes." Since one of the biggest things the US exports ("trades") is IP, it can only be "yes."

    Also note that there are different flavors of IP: trademarks, copyrights, patents. Mostly what we're talking about here is copyright, so let's not get into the software patent quagmire.

  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:20PM (#30811172)

    I thought it was largely as a concession to the corn farmers in midwest and Great Lakes regions.

  • by 2obvious4u ( 871996 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:24PM (#30811208)
    IP laws are a construct of the state. They artificially create a good that otherwise wouldn't exist. Free markets work great when you need to distribute a limited resource. They don't work so well when an artificial rule is used to keep an otherwise free and plentiful resource arbitrarily scarce to line the pockets of those with power.
  • by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:27PM (#30811250) Homepage Journal

    If it's about the money, then it's probably not directly the lobbying, it's the broken campaign finance system. Businesses can't be legally prevented from contributing to campaigns. Despite being a "virtual person" (I think the reason they're allowed to contribute), businesses don't appear to have the same contribution limit as individuals, basically it's getting the best of both sides of the equation.

  • Re:Umm, so? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 2obvious4u ( 871996 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:30PM (#30811298)
    Isn't part of it because we don't enforce the same rules on China? Where is the blocking of all the Chinese goods because they don't respect IP laws? If we held all countries to the same standard it probably wouldn't be news.
  • by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <> on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:30PM (#30811302) Homepage

    The only way to generate money from IP is to use governments to create and enforce laws.

    Meaning: before IP was invented, just a few hundred years ago, writers made no money. Which is, of course, absurd. IP is a scam, as much as religions or the war on drug.

  • IP Laws (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:30PM (#30811310)

    The Government of the United States of America is a whore to corporate interests.

  • by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:32PM (#30811334) Homepage

    You no longer live in a true democracy, corporations and their pet lobby groups have superceded the rights of the citizens of the US in many ways, and the IP Mafiaa can push through things like ACTA and other draconian legislation because they have effective control of the government. Its not that clear cut mind you, I am not preaching paranoia, but corporate interests have a disproportionate influence on the laws that are being enacted, and its not in the interests of the average citizen IMHO.
    I'm Canadian, so I don't have the legal option but isn't tossing out your government and replacing it with a better one a legal option down there in the US?

  • by ral ( 93840 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:33PM (#30811344)
    If you want to see a real free trade agreement, you need look no further than our own constitution:

    Article I, Section 9. No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state. No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another: nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one state, be obliged to enter, clear or pay duties in another.

    That's it. In contrast CAFTA is 3700 pages long. NAFTA is 2000 pages long. These agreements do not give freedom, they take it away.

  • Re:"IP La" (Score:1, Insightful)

    by El Lobo ( 994537 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:35PM (#30811378)
    News for nerds? Oh well. Am I the only one who things that /. is featuring too many articles on politics lately? At least net neutrality and such are somehow a little bit nerdy, but THIS?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:40PM (#30811446)

    Yeah, I suppose if you look at it that way, there's nothing wrong with it. Just like there's nothing wrong with, say, schoolyard bullying - if you don't want to be bullied, just suck up to the bully and play by his rules, so what's the problem?

    The problem, of course, is that this sort of behavior, while perfectly understandable if you consider states (and people) to be entirely sociopathic egoists, driven only by the desire to get the biggest slice of cake for themselves at the expense of everyone else, simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny once you consider concepts like "freedom" or "democracy".

    In fact, think about democracy. Don't you think that a nation's law should, ultimately, be set by its citizens? Just how this happens in practice may vary, but don't you see anything wrong with any nation forcing another nation to adopt certain laws against its wishes?

    And if you don't, would you still not do so if the USA were at the receiving end? If China decided to that they didn't like this or that law in the USA, and tried to use economic pressure to strongarm the US government into passing it, over the resistance of the people, would you be OK with that?

  • by wagnerrp ( 1305589 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:46PM (#30811540)
    Only if you succeed.
  • by chord.wav ( 599850 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:48PM (#30811556) Journal

    Of course nobody did, and it's not your fault. But that doesn't mean you can stand rested with your arms crossed now. Democracy is about breathing in the necks of the politicians EVERY SINGLE DAY, cause the day you don't do it, things like these happen.

  • Re:"IP La" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Drummergeek0 ( 1513771 ) <tony.3bdd@com> on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:59PM (#30811688)

    They need to stop tagging these as YRO, this has nothing to do with online. There needs to be a new section for copyright, considering how many articles relate to RIAA, MPAA.

  • by lofoforabr ( 751004 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @04:12PM (#30811864) Homepage
    And then, when a group of terrorists come and destroy something, americans have no clue as to why it was done. The US keeps messing and bullying the whole world because of its economic and military power. I'm by no means saying it's fair or justified taking revenge like a few groups do, but let's face it... it's quite understandable why some nations hate the US so much.
  • by MattSausage ( 940218 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @04:13PM (#30811882)
    They make Budweiser.
  • by rotide ( 1015173 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @04:25PM (#30812026)

    Tossing out the government will end up requiring the use of arms. Those with the power will not just walk away. Our country is very polarized and you would find just as many people for as for against the "replacing" of government. You simply won't see "the people" all stand up and tell the current leaders to go.

    We're talking about tearing down what we have, not just changing figureheads. All the laws that "we" "don't like" would have to be removed as well.

    At the beginning those fighting the powers that be will be labeled, and handled, as terrorists.

    If they succeed in gaining momentum, it will turn into civil war.

    But without a powerful army of "our" own to fight the current standing army, I fear "our" army would be _severely_ out matched. Although, you could hope for a split in the armed forces as well and hope they back "our" team, but somehow I don't see that happening on a large enough scale.

    Unfortunately, in the end, I don't see "us" beating the government. It will take another country to help with that, but they won't do it out of generosity. They will want something for it and I'm afraid the "rules" for helping will allow for laws even worse than what we see now.

    This is all mental masturbation and I don't claim to be a strategist let alone an expert. But my logic tells me an internal uprising will easily be handled by the numbers and the technology of the current government.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @04:28PM (#30812080)

    how many elected officials know their own views before they have their big donors tell them?

  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @04:32PM (#30812148)
    Why would the US take any of these measures when it's usually only the vilan who stoops to these actions in the Hollywood movies?

    To the rest of the world The US IS the villain

  • Re:"IP La" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @04:37PM (#30812198)

    Politics is intertwined with everything we do, and in recent years micromanagement by lawfare is well on the way to strangle national and personal freedom.

    The tendency to add laws to micromanage all human conduct is certainly of interest to nerds, as we are despised by the ignorant masses who will cheerfully shitcan OUR rights and freedoms for their convenience. In a world suffocated by the law of the rich and powerful, the only "free" people may one day be those who reject it entirely and are willing to pay the price.

    I don't much care for the only "free" people being the Timothy McVeighs of the world. Instead of letting it get that far we need to watch for every threat to freedom and expose it.

  • by copponex ( 13876 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:07PM (#30812550) Homepage

    for NO GAIN OF OUR OWN (this includes both Iraq (the supposed "bad war") and Afghanistan (the supposed "good war" that people are now having second thoughts about). Your cluelessness on what constitutes a "good country" and a "bad country" is truly epic.

    Germany and Japan were only built up as counterweights to the influence of Russia and China. South Korea was a counterweight to China. Vietnam, since the intelligence community at the time was so hilariously inept, was also a counterweight to the threat of communist China. (The Vietnamese have been fighting the Chinese for centuries). Iraq and Afghanistan are strategically important, due to their geography and their natural resources. If Iraq didn't have oil, we wouldn't care what Saddam was doing. And if Saddam had continued to play by the rules, we would have let him continue to murder and kill for decades more. This is why we sit and watch Rwanda and Darfur with detached interest.

    This is beyond the fact that the "nation" of Iraq as it is today is a figment of British imagination, purposefully drawn to create a state that is both rich in natural resources and completely divided internally, so it will be dependent on foreign powers. Just as it is beyond the fact that Saudi Arabia has a human rights record just as bad as Iran, it's an Islamic monarchy that doesn't allow non-Muslims to testify in court, or anyone to even pretend to vote, but it receives no criticism because it is - for now - a faithful lapdog.

    I doubt you know that we invaded and occupied Haiti, Nicaragua, the Philippines, with tens of thousands of Marines. Or that we sponsored murderous thugs throughout Central and South America, if those thugs provided profit opportunities for American businesses. This is how it begins - a trade war. If it continues, watch the men in charge unleash the media on the "leftist" government in Costa Rica.

    Your statement also ignored the fact that these people have a right to choose their own destiny, since they are sovereign nations. Unless you'd like someone to invade America and choose our political system for us, I think you should reconsider your position and it's consequences.

    Your understanding of history is truly pathetic. If it wasn't, however, it would be tough to convince me you were an American. I hope for your sake you never receive what you have wished upon others.

  • Re:"IP La" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:15PM (#30812642)

    As nerds our primary useful output is intellectual property, for many of us our significant consumption is intellectual property, and the focus of our work is intellectual property. It kind of does make sense.

  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ckaminski ( 82854 ) <slashdot-nospam@ ... m minus physicis> on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:20PM (#30812730) Homepage
    Yea, it's propaganda. Something that if you need, generally means you're doing bad shit (eg. Dow Chemical Green/Eco Ads that kick started the currently greenie mania circa 2004).

    The fact that they exist at all is telling.

    And OT: what is this bullshit about the Netherlands banning artifical trans-fats? WTF is an artificial trans-fat?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:20PM (#30812736)

    You all claim you need your guns to protect you from a corrupt government. Now you have a corrupt government and still you do nothing.

  • by 2obvious4u ( 871996 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:31PM (#30812862)
    Company in country A then sells its products in country A; where its laws are there to protect it. Another company in country B which doesn't have copyright/patent laws then produces an identical product at a reduced price, which the people in country B can afford. The government of country A blocks import of the protected product from country B. Both A and B benefit. Company A has a monopoly in Country A. Company B sells a product to the citizens of country B at a rate they can afford.

    The rub is that the internet has destroyed international borders for IP.

    As far as my view of IP. I believe that the IP market has moved from a good to a service. You create a piece of IP and you give it away for free. You make your money servicing the product you've created.

    Companies like Intel will keep their market share because of the capital to enter the market. Not just anyone can create 30nm chips. The equipment and resources are too specialized. However if someone else entered the market and created a comparable chip Intel could still compete on "quality" or could mass produce and be competitive on economies of scale. Either way it is good for the consumer.
  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:31PM (#30812864)

    You're confusing the state of IP during medieval times (roughly 900-1300) with that during the Renaissance (1300-1500). Heck, even the ancient Greeks and Romans had prolific writers. But don't let ignorance get in the way of your point.

  • Re:Free trade (Score:3, Insightful)

    by krou ( 1027572 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:43PM (#30813736)

    Surely you see the benefits of trade

    You're talking about hypothetical trade, whereas you should be looking at reality. I can see the possible benefits of the free market, except trade as it stands has not become more free, and all have not benefited.

    One historical example: the industrial revolution was built upon cheap cotton, which came from the US. The "vast, fertile land" was cleared by wiping out indigenous inhabitants, and it was not the market that kept cotton cheap, but primarily slavery. And other competitors, such as advanced textile industries in India, were destroyed, either through British force or protectionism, while its resources were sent to England. Hardly beneficial to everyone in this instance. Hell, India was highly advanced in steel manufacture, and was producing iron in such quantities that it rivalled all of Europe, and was producing locomotives competitively, but that too was wiped out by the British. Egypt was also blocked by the British from any independent development during this period.

    The only reason England ever adopted the "free market" was after it had reached market dominance through such methods.

    Do you really think it was tariffs that made America rich

    Tariffs alone? Probably not, but it played a vital role in getting things off the ground. New England followed the same path of protectionism (high tariffs) against British textiles that Britain imposed on India, which essentially saved around half of their textile industry, which in turn had a massive impact on its industrial growth. The same applies to the steel industry in the United States, which essentially thrived because tariffs blocked British steel from competing.

    Like England, America only adopted the free market doctrine once it was the most powerful and richest country in the world. Only then does free trade become appealing, because you can expect to win (no doubt China plans on following a similar pattern). Even then, the US has interfered greatly in the workings of the free market over the last several decades e.g. using aid to subsidize shipping and agriculture, as well as to undercut competitors. US intervention in South America is also instructive when demonstrating what little regard the US has for the free market.

  • Re:hua... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <> on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:10PM (#30814018)

    Yeah, Microsoft isn't that bad...

  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zzyzyx ( 1382375 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:53PM (#30814416)

    Yeah, because clearly lobbyists dictating their rules in favor of their own private interests is the perfect example of democracy, as is trying to impose laws to foreign countries in spite of the will of the population ...

  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @10:02PM (#30815342)

    The sucrase enzyme is the key. The body uses it to regulate the amount of glucose and fructose in the blook. When you consumed it floods the bloodstream with glucose and fructose. Being a diabetic I believe that to be VERY BAD KARMA.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @10:03PM (#30815346)

    You knew that when you signed the treaty.

    You knew what was coming when you began offering incentives to Intel, 20% of your exports in 2006. Costa Rica

    The big corporation that lives and breathes IP.

    You want to sell coffee and bananas. You want what Intel and Glaxo and P&G have to offer.

    You make the deal. You live by the deal or we'll organise a coup and prop up someone who will sign the deal.

    There, fixed that for you.

  • OLD NEWS DAY (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Crypto Gnome ( 651401 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @10:06PM (#30815354) Homepage Journal
    Why this is even a headline these days is absolutely beyond me.

    Exactly the same thing was done to Australia a couple of years ago, we are now bound by American Copyright laws in return for some not-100%-royally-screwing-australia "free trade" agreements.

    The irony of the thing is that America was founded on "no taxation without representation" and now they want to shove their laws down my throat but without *also* giving me the rights/priviledges of "being an american".

    Welcome to the modern methods of empire-building.
  • by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @11:42PM (#30815876)

    I'm not certain whether I should be called a language loonie, a logic loonie or a political radical but here goes my rant: Free trade means free of all laws, all rules, all taxes, all regulations. The blithering about free markets and capitalism is a right wing conspiracy in and of itself. No nation, not even a tribe of primitives, has ever tried free trade for even one solitary moment. The notion of free trade compares to pregnancy. One absolutely is or is not pregnant. There are no stages or shades of grey.
                    By letting people absorb the false facts about free trade it becomes easy to further manipulate their lives. Obviously it follows as the night the day that if free trade has never existed then nothing really is known about free trade at all. It is false theoretical dribble designed to enslave under educated populations.
                      I cringe in horror at the supposedly logical, supposedly educated types who spout off about free trade.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak