It looks like Kevin Spacey’s piracy fears are well founded. Following his dig at content theft in India, a U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) report has flagged both that country and China as trouble spots for international IP protection.

English: 2010 Special 301 Report (World Map) P...

A segment of the  2010 Special 301 Report (World Map) Priority Watch List (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The office’s annual Special 301 Report monitors how well – or, more often, how badly – America’s trading partners are handling U.S. intellectual property rights, from maintaining the integrity of trade secrets and patented  technology, to curbing content theft for the entertainment industry.

As a global barometer of IP protection effort it’s a very useful tool, which the MPAA’s Chris Dodd calls “critical” to upholding the value of the U.S. creative sector.  It has the ability to raise the red flag to countries that must do more in the area, without laying out any direct political threats that could set back other diplomatic efforts.

And diplomacy is a big factor in moving the needle against theft in these high piracy regions. While the government clearly understands the huge contribution made to the country’s GDP by the copyright economy, it must balance numerous competing issues in relations with foreign governments. At the same time, industry lobbyists at home inevitably press their case all the harder, as can be seen with the pharmaceutical industry’s pressure over India’s IP offences.

It’s not just the government balancing its interests, either. Right here in the entertainment industry, Hollywood is working hard to court the Chinese movie market, even as it hopes the country will do more to protect titles by U.S. movie makers being stolen. Other concerns include continuing censorship and the increasing interventions to benefit state broadcaster CCTV, but the massive potential audience in China has proved to be a powerful counterweight in discussions over issues like piracy. China may be the villain in terms of IP protection concerns, but it is very much the hero in terms of market potential.

Speaking of heroes, elsewhere in the Special 301 Report some countries have come in for deserved praise. Those that have managed to work their way off the USTR ‘Watch List’ provide a positive example for their piracy-riddled peers. Both Italy and the Philippines were singled out for praise in the latest report, acknowledging that hard work and vigilance pay off when it comes to international IP protection.


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