On April 30, the Office of the United States Trade
Representative (USTR) released its 2009 Special 301 Report, which
is an annual review of the global state of intellectual property
rights (IPR) protection and enforcement. The big surprise contained
in the 2009 edition of the Report was the inclusion of Canada on
the "Priority Watch" list when it had previously been
included only on the lower "Watch" list. In so doing, the
USTR cited "growing concerns" in Canada.
While the USTR made note of the traditional high level of
cooperation between the Canadian and American governments on many
IPR initiatives, the Report expressed concern with Canada's
delay in the implementation of copyright reforms, as the Canadian
government has previously committed to enact in 2007 and 2008.
Without explicitly referring to Bill C-61, An Act to amend the
Copyright Act, which died on the order paper in September
2008, the Report made note of Canada's "failure to
accede to and implement the WIPO Internet Treaties, which Canada
signed in 1997." The Report further urged Canada to take more
effective action against trade in counterfeit and pirated products
within Canada, and in particular with respect to border enforcement
Inclusion on the Priority Watch list is a wake-up call and will
increase pressure on the government to align Canada's
intellectual property laws with international obligations. The
government has signalled that it will be working on copyright
reforms over the summer. It is expected that revisions to the
Copyright Act will be tabled this year.
Other points of interest in the Special 301 Report included a
discussion on the growth of Internet and digital piracy. The Report
noted that "Internet piracy is rapidly supplanting physical
piracy in many markets around the world," and urged signatory
countries to the WIPO Internet Treaties to expedite ratification
and implementation of the treaties. The Report also commented on
the WTO Dispute Settlement Body decision, which ruled largely in
the United States's favor against China, stating that
"the United States looks forward to working with China to
implement the Dispute Settlement Body's recommendations and
rulings in this dispute."
Finally, the Report commented on some positive developments in
intellectual property rights enforcement around the world. It noted
that due to the South Korean Government's continuing
improvement of its IPR regime, the country would be removed from
the Watch list for the first time. The Report also praised Taiwan
for implementing its "Ministry of Education Action Plan for
Protecting IPR on School Campuses," for enacting new laws with
respect to ISP liability, and for key prosecutions of P2P network
operators. And the Report praised China for its IPR enforcement
during the Beijing Olympics: "This experience shows that when
the Chinese Government chooses to exercise its political will to
deal with an IPR problem, it can yield results."
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