Off the Watch List: 4 Countries Strengthening Intellectual Property Rights Protection
Monday, June 14, 2010 12:43 pm | By Anthony Lizan

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) recently released its annual Special 301 Report, which focuses on global intellectual property rights protection. The report highlights and monitors countries with IP enforcement inadequacies and places them into two lists, the “Priority Watch List,” and the “Watch List.”

With the exception of Israel, whose status is pending, the “Priority Watch List” remains unchanged since 2009. (The Israelis have agreed to address several issues relating to pharmaceutical products, and the Property Rights Alliance will continue to monitor their progress.)The “Watch List,” on the other hand, did see an improvement from last year. Four countries—the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Saudi Arabia—all made great strides to increase IPR enforcement. (Click the "Read More" link below)

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Canada Seeks to Crack Down on Copyright Infringement
Friday, June 11, 2010 1:55 pm | By Anthony Lizan

Ottawa’s Bill C-32 , the Copyright Modernization Act, is currently making its way through the Canadian Parliament. If it passes, it will bar Canadians from breaking digital locks on entertainment products—including music and movies—to duplicate the content. The bill also includes a “notice-to-notice” provision that allows copyright holders to warn internet service providers of suspected piracy. The service providers are then obliged to tell their customers that they are breaking the law. The bill is Canada’s attempt to comply with the World Intellectual Property Organization’s treaty that it signed in 1997.

This bill is great news for copyright holders, intellectual property rights advocates, and innovators in general. As noted in the 2010 International Property Rights Index, “copyright piracy levels continued to be somewhat high for a well developed country – estimated at an average of 33 percent. As a result, the country was added to the “priority watch list” by the U.S. Trade Representative. Moreover, reflective of the lack of progress with respect to IPR protection is the fact that expert option on protection of intellectual property rights has deteriorated since 2009.” With Canada’s lax attitude towards IP protection, this new bill is a step in the right direction. It gives more power and protections to the people who help drive the Canadian economy.  
Canada remains one of the only developed countries not to have implemented internet protections agreed to in copyright treatys. Implementation of C-32 would be a positive step in combating IP theft and copyright infringement in Canada. 

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Manga Publishers Fight Online Piracy
Thursday, June 10, 2010 4:35 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

The battle continues to wage on between content creators and for-profit websites that host countless amounts of pirated music, movies, and books. A coalition of Japanese and American manga publishers have come together to fight what they see as rampant piracy of their comics over the internet. According to Publishers Weekly, the 36-member group came together in response to the transformation of what was once a fan based movement to swap the Japanese comics among friends to the growth of “heavily trafficked, for-profit Web sites that host thousands of pirated manga editions and offer them for free to readers.”

After years of declining revenue sales due to the growth of the scanlation sites, the comic publishers are finally taking steps to combat the illegal sites and they are well within their right to do so. Like many battles dealing with online infringement, this goes far beyond the notion of a comic fan simply sharing a copy of a comic to a friend who may not have access to it. These aggregator websites, visited by millions of people, operate with an entire business model based on advertisement revenue and membership dues, profiting off the creation of others without due compensation to those rights holders. This not only harms the creative industries economically but also the incentive to create the comics or music, or movies we have grown to value. When creators and innovators face the risk of having their property effectively expropriated, nobody wins.

This news comes on the heels of the Limewire decision, where U.S. District Judge Kimba Woods ruled that the website could be held liable for copyright infringement. As a result of that decision, Limewire could be held liable for hundreds of millions to a billion dollars in damages.

For further reading on the manga issue, Patrick Ross at the Copyright Alliance has a great blog post on the move by manga publishers, breaking down how this latest push by copyright holders is another swipe at the arguments of the “free culture” movement and specifically, Lawrence Lessig, who used in his book, “Free Culture,” the manga publishers previous lack of aggressive pursuit of copyright violators as an example of copyright theft being accepted.

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