The Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) on so-called "Intellectual Property"

Michael Geist BLOGS about the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and the inevitable inclusion of PCT (Patent, copyright, Trademark, etc) law (See: MonteBello2007: Intellectual Property Action Strategy (PDF))

As I have written before, IP consistently ranks as a top U.S. trade priority and the SPP quite obviously represents a core part of the U.S. strategy to export tougher IP enforcement to its closest neighbours.

See also: The E-Commerce and Information and Communications Technologies Working Group.

From the press release:

Intellectual Property Rights Action Strategy

Counterfeiting and piracy activities cost North America hundreds of millions of dollars. These activities include manufacturing goods bearing imitation trade-marks (including pharmaceuticals, toys, clothing, auto parts, medical equipment and foodstuffs) as well as making unauthorized copies of books, CDs, DVDs and computer software for commercial distribution.

After the last North American Leaders' Summit, a strategy was developed with the support of both public and private sector representatives. It builds on existing cooperation and improves co-ordination among the three governments and businesspeople. The Strategy is based on the following three elements:

  • Detection and Deterrence: the sharing of best practices among enforcement authorities and the identification of further areas of collaboration, including exchanging practices for training customs/border enforcement authorities on intellectual property rights;
  • Public Awareness: public education, including media campaigns, around the negative impacts that counterfeiting and piracy have on both consumers and the economy and;
  • Impact Measurement: a coordinated approach to data collection using the study of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on economic impact of counterfeiting and piracy as well as systematic surveys. This will help to define the scope of counterfeiting and piracy activities, to set objectives, and to measure performance.

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What potential negative impacts on public freedoms do you foresee from the tightening of IP policing.


The term 'tightening' of copyright is less than informative. Copyright is a law that grants certain rights to one group of people at the expense of others, and thus must always be a justifiable balance.

Whenever you hear "stronger" copyright you need to ask, stronger in whose benefit?

Recent copyright proposals, primarily out of the USA, have been to make copyright stronger for the incumbent content and related industries at the expensive of everyone else:

  • new creators wanting to harness new methods of production, distribution, funding
  • libraries, archives, educational institutions, etc
  • audiences of the works
  • owners of technology (the alleged justifiability of "DRM")
  • ...etc

Each of these groups have their own rights described in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which are implicated by copyright law, and we must always ensure that copyright remains a balance between these competing rights/interests.

I will admit to having beliefs that are nearly opposite to recent proposals in that I believe that as part of economic progress we should allow incumbent businesses to be transformed by transformative changes in the marketplace which are favoring innovative new creative industries (Read: Innovators Dilemma) . The interests of those who these new proposed laws are protecting are in fact the interests I believe should be least protected.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.