USTR may see some sense on Free Software

In February, I asked whether Free Software is a reason for trade war. A US lobby group, the IIPA, was pressing the US government to punish countries that make use of Free Software by giving them tougher trade deals.

Now the US Trade Representative has just published the 2010 Special 301 report [pdf] (USTR). It looks like the Free Software community’s attention to the issue has had an effect. The lobby group’s demands in this respect appear not to have been included in the report.

The report sorts countries into the categories of “Watch List” (bad) and “Priority Watch List” (worse). Countries in both categories may face trade retaliation from the US if they don’t comply with the whishes of the US government on copyright, patents and trademarks.

Here is where the countries ended up that were attacked by the lobby group:

  • Indonesia: Priority Watch List. “Serious market access barriers remain” – but the report doesn’t get more specific than this. Indonesia was added to the Priority Watch List in 2009.
  • India: Priority Watch List. No apparent reference to Free Software. India has been on the Priority Watch List since before 2009.
  • Thailand: Priority Watch list. No apparent reference to software. Thailand has been on the Priority Watch List since before 2009.
  • Vietnam: Watch List. “The United States encourages Vietnam to continue considering regulations to protect against unfair commercial use” – it’s unclear whether that’s a twisted way of reflecting the IIPA’s complaints.  Vietnam has been on the  Watch List since before 2009.
  • Philippines: Watch list. No apparent reference to software. The Philippines have been on the Watch List since before 2009.

We can conclude that this particular demand by the IIPA went too far even for the US Trade Representative.

Is the absence of bad news the same as good news? Hardly.  The whole process is still designed to use the overwhelming trade power of the US to force the intellectual monopoly rights held there down everyone else’s throat. In areas such as pharmaceuticals, the report makes a horrible read.

Fore more and broader context on this year’s Special 301 report, go see what Michael Geist and KEI have to say.