The following is a guest post by Emily Lanza, Counsel for Policy & International Affairs.
Staff attorneys in the Office of Policy and International Affairs (PIA) here at the U.S. Copyright Office often work with our colleagues in other agencies, providing expert advice on domestic and international copyright issues. Since the Copyright Office was created in 1897, our advice has been valuable to the executive and judicial branches, so much so that Congress codified this function into federal law.
Trade is one area where copyright concerns overlap with the interests and work of other agencies. For example, each year the administration prepares the Special 301 Report to Congress on intellectual property protection abroad. Under a trade law passed in 1988, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is required to monitor U.S. trading partners by identifying to Congress “those foreign countries that deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights, or deny fair and equitable market access to United States persons that rely upon intellectual property protection.”
This year was my first participating in the Special 301 process. While every member of my office has the responsibility to review their assigned countries, I, along with another PIA attorney, represented the Copyright Office on the Special 301 interagency subcommittee, which comprises more than a dozen agencies and is chaired by USTR. In preparing the report this year, the subcommittee reviewed input of more than 100 trading partners from varied stakeholders as well as our embassies abroad. This input included public comments from interested parties and witness testimony from trading partners and stakeholders during the public hearing.
USTR published the 2017 Special 301 Report on April 28, 2017. Eleven trading partners were placed on the Priority Watch List and twenty on the Watch List. The 2017 report noted improvements in several countries, including Honduras, Kuwait, and Malaysia, and highlighted ongoing concerns in China, India, and Mexico, among others. Each listed country has its own specific write-up within the report. Some countries have challenges across the intellectual property spectrum (for example copyright, patent, trademark, and trade secrets), while other countries may have more specific problems affecting only one or two industry sectors.
The work of the subcommittee and its constituent agencies, however, does not end with the April release of the 2017 report. Throughout the year, we in PIA continue to work with our interagency colleagues to engage with countries discussed in the report in finding ways to improve intellectual property protection worldwide. Indeed, there are several current proceedings open under the Special 301 rubric: (1) the annual out-of-cycle review of “notorious markets,” which results in a list identifying select online and physical marketplaces that reportedly engage in or facilitate substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting (initial comments due October 2 and rebuttal comments due October 16); (2) an out-of-cycle review of the IPR practices in Thailand (public comments due October 20); and an out-of-cycle review of the IPR practices in Colombia (public comments also due October 20).
With so many different players and factors involved in the Special 301 process, I learned first-hand of the challenges in reviewing competing interests and the importance of working together to find solutions. While the prep work seemed daunting at times, I appreciated having an extensive record of information to support our work. I look forward to working with my Copyright Office and interagency colleagues on additional collaborative projects addressing domestic and international copyright issues.