You can set your watch to it.
The inclusion of Canada on the U.S. Trade Representative’s annual “301 Priority Watchlist,” ostensibly a blacklist of the world’s 10 worst abusers of intellectual property, has become as predictable as tax day. Each year for the past four years, we’ve been told that we are a nation of pirates and thieves, keeping company with epic bootlegger nations like Russia and China. And each year, no proof is given to back up the smear. The USTR provides no hard facts or data illustrating the extent of piracy and counterfeiting in Canada. Instead, the report simply reminds us that we haven’t adopted the right kind of intellectual property laws. And what kind is the right kind? The American kind, naturally.
So what are the consequences of being on the Priority Watchlist? Officially, none. The list results in no sanctions or penalties from our NAFTA partner. It is meant to shame us, along with any other country that has resisted pressure from American lobby groups to use our laws to protect their outdated business models. The list is explicit in this, stating baldly that Canada’s inclusion is “subject to review if Canada enacts long awaited copyright legislation.”
That legislation is coming this summer. Bill C-11 will make it illegal for Canadians to install a program that, say, lets you transfer a Kindle book to a Kobo eReader. It will also open the door to lawsuits against Canadians who do so anyhow, like the tens of thousands of lawsuits against individual music downloaders that have failed to curb piracy in the U.S.
It seems that America’s shame list has worked. We’ve caved in, prioritizing the pressure from a foreign nation’s industry against the rights of our own citizens to do what they want with their own property.
Personally, I’ll be ashamed when we’re off the 301 Watchlist.