27 June 2008

Back-Door Maximalist Intellectual Monopolies

This looks like a very serious attempt to bring in maximalist intellectual monopolies through an agreement called SECURE under the aegis of the World Customs Organisation (sic) :

Susan Sell, director of the Institute for Global and International Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, DC, said in a recent paper (available here [pdf]) that the SECURE aims were “TRIPS-plus-plus,” referring to extending beyond the scope of the 1994 World Trade Organization Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS). “These new anti-counterfeiting and enforcement initiatives are just the latest mechanisms to achieve the maximalists’ abiding goal of ratcheting up IP protection and enforcement worldwide,” she said.

Viviana Muñoz Tellez of the intergovernmental South Centre said in the South Centre Bulletin (16 April 2008 issue [pdf]) that the SECURE working group seems to be “setting new standards of intellectual property enforcement through the back door,” and that this “may extend beyond the WCO mandate.” Separately, she told Intellectual Property Watch that standards presented as voluntary could become mandatory down the line. “Soft law,” she said in the article, “is often the basis on which ‘hard law’ is later established.”

And if that's not bad enough, there's a couple more details:

Other concerns of Sell’s are that the standards would extend monitoring to all IP, as opposed to just trademark and copyright, and would free IP rights holders from the burden of providing evidence that there is infringement “initiate a procedure.”

Patents would be turned into a customs issue (whaaat?), and there would be no need actually to show that an infringement happened in order to start a "procedure".... In other words, this SECURE (and for the name, see here) is about extending the RIAA's intimidatory tactics to the whole of intellectual monopolies, and globally.

But wait, there's more:

There also was substantive concern that rights holders, such as industry trade associations, were participating in WCO meetings at the same level as member states, to the extent of having their own vice-chair. Muñoz’s article characterised their involvement as “on equal footing” with members, and said they can “equally suggest draft language.”


“We’ve been very open with the public,” he added, about the allowance of private sector stakeholders in the meetings. What is unique about the way that WCO meetings are run is that observers may speak and express opinions once members have spoken. This is in contrast to the WTO and WIPO, where observers generally only offer comment if asked to, or with express permission of a meeting chair.

So, the industries mostly closely involved with intellectual monopolies are helping shape the agreement alongside the government organisations. Well, that's sure to produce a balance, isn't it?

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