[Ip-health] Hello Athens, drop everything you are doing (Special 301, ACTA)

Ante ante at ffii.org
Fri May 18 03:50:22 PDT 2012

Hello Athens, drop everything you are doing
with links

May 17, 2012
By Ante

On April 30th, the United States published its 2012 Special 301 Report (pdf). 
Among other things, the report targets poor countries for not spending enough 
on the enforcement of intellectual property rights – including EU member 
states Romania and Greece. There are excellent overviews of the Special 301 
report, see for instance Knowledge Ecology International and Michael Geist. 
Below I will link the Special 301 report with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade 
Agreement, or ACTA.

The Special 301 report shows that at least one ACTA safeguard is worth 
nothing. Furthermore, Germany advises developing countries against signing 
ACTA. Germany should also advise Eastern European countries not to sign ACTA. 
And the Commission should tell the US not to interfere with the Union’s 
internal politics. The Special 301 report highlights that from an access to 
knowledge point of view, ACTA is unacceptable, for Europe as well.

First, Michael Geist on the mentioalmmostn of Guatemala in the Special 301 
report: "Note that the USTR is not criticizing Guatemala’s laws nor 
enforcement efforts as the government has complied with repeated U.S. demands 
to shift resources toward IP enforcement. Indeed, there is no obvious reason 
for inclusion on the Special 301 list other than an attempt to lobby a country 
that ranks 123rd worldwide in per capita GDP to spend even more money 
enforcing US intellectual property rights rather than on education, health 
care or infrastructure, the sorts of expenditures that might improve the 
country’s overall economy and ultimately lead to reduced rates of 

There is indeed a lot of media piracy in developing countries. For emerging 
economies, the Media Piracy in Emerging Economies report shows the underlaying 
dynamics: "Media piracy has been called ‘a global scourge,’ ‘an international 
plague,’ and ‘nirvana for criminals,’ but it is probably better described as a 
global pricing problem. High prices for media goods, low incomes, and cheap 
digital technologies are the main ingredients of global media piracy. If 
piracy is ubiquitous in most parts of the world, it is because these 
conditions are ubiquitous. Relative to local incomes in Brazil, Russia, or 
South Africa, the price of a CD, DVD, or copy of Microsoft Office is five to 
ten times higher than in the United States or Europe."

In emerging economies, some 90% of the people do not have access to affordable 
legal CDs and DVDs. Their only solution is to buy illegal copies. Under these 
circumstances, stronger enforcement will not work. An approach that does not 
solve global pricing problems, but only heightens enforcement, will not solve 
global media piracy and counterfeiting problems, but will only increase social 

With regards to scientific knowledge, even the library of Harvard University, 
one of the richest universities in the world, complains scientific journals 
are too expensive.

Geist also notes EU country Romania (77th per capita GDP) is on the list as 
well. The 301 report:

"Romania remains on the Watch List in 2012. U.S. industry reports positive 
cooperation with Romanian enforcement officials and among enforcement 
agencies, evidenced by the taking down of 164 infringing websites. Romania 
should, however, ensure that authorities have the proper resources and 
training to address the country’s high rates of piracy and counterfeiting 
effectively. The United States urges Romania to prioritize IPR protection and 
enforcement. Piracy over the Internet remains a serious concern, and more 
enforcement efforts are needed to address the problem. Judicial delays and a 
lack of deterrent-level sentencing also remain a problem. The United States 
looks forward to continuing to work with Romania to address these and other 

As an EU country, Romania implemented the Union’s strict legislation on IP 
rights and enforcement. Such strict laws are counterproductive in a country 
where almost the entire population does not have enough money to buy the legal 
products. Romania needs exceptions to strict enforcement rules. Romania is 
also an ACTA party, ACTA will make it impossible to soften EU law for Romania.

Article 2.2 ACTA says: "Nothing in this Agreement creates any obligation with 
respect to the distribution of resources as between enforcement of 
intellectual property rights and enforcement of law in general." This ACTA 
safeguard is worth nothing. Before and after the TRIPS agreement, before and 
after ACTA, the US has pressured and will pressure countries anyhow. With 
ACTA, the US will only have more possibilities to pressure Romania.

Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development advises 
developing countries against signing ACTA. Interestingly, two ACTA parties are 
developing countries: Mexico (65th GDP per capita) and Morocco (121st). After 
years of negotiations, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and 
Development now advises them not to sign ACTA.

Romania, 77th per capita GDP, is just above Brazil (80th) and South Africa 
(83rd) on the GDP per capita list, but below Russia (56th). Bulgaria (72nd), 
Latvia (63rd), Lithuania (53rd), Poland (50th) and Estonia (49th) hardly do 
better. After many years of negotiations, Germany implicitly advises them not 
to sign ACTA. Germany should explicitly advise Eastern European countries not 
to sign ACTA.

According to the Treaty on European Union, the Union shall aim at social 
progress, scientific and technological advance, combat social exclusion and 
shall promote social justice.

But how is that possible if people can’t afford to buy the legal products, and 
even access to medicine is threatened? Europe does not only face financial 
austerity, but also information austerity.

The Commission, guardian of the Treaties, should advise Eastern European 
countries against signing ACTA, and should tell the US not to interfere with 
the Union’s internal politics.

EU member states Italy and Greece are higher on the GDP per capita list (33rd 
and 37th), but both are struggling with austerity and especially Greece 
experiences severe problems. Both are on the 2012 Special 301 Watch list.

Hello Athens, drop everything you are doing, the 2012 Special 301 report is 

Spain (32nd GDP per capita) showed remarkable progress after it joined the EU, 
but the Euro turns out to be a wild horse to ride. Spain’s unemployment rate 
is at 24.1%, the youth unemployment rate is at 51.1%. A significant part of 
Spain’s population has limited excess to legal intellectual property rights 
protected products.

>From an access to knowledge point of view, ACTA is unacceptable, not just for 
developing countries and emerging economies, but for Europe as well.

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