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Our ‘copy’right!
WTO finally pulls up errant China

China has had so many issues with patents that it could actually patent its expertise on restricting intellectual property and on giving nightmares to copyright owners! The dragon has lost yet another trade battle with the US in the World Trade Organisation in August 2009 – it’s third loss to the US since last year.

The gilded cage that China has created by restricting imports of DVDs, music, books, software is described by the panel as discriminatory and not in line with the policies of WTO. In 2007, 11.7 million Americans were employed in these copyright industries and foreign sales totalled $126 billion in 2007 – thus, the damage done to American businesses is significant. The international theft of all kinds of intellectual property has resulted in the loss of 750,000 American jobs. And because of its sheer size and lousy copyright laws, China has long been the focus of American and global concern.

China has also restrained the number of foreign films that can be released on her own soil to 20 each year. This policy has given birth to rampant piracy across the country, where movie or music DVDs are available at sums as paltry as $1. Even though American movie companies have tried tooth and nail to keep prices low, they are suffering. Although the WTO has nudged China to clamp down on piracy, it is difficult to curb bootlegging altogether in this vast country (which is an outcome of China’s own pigeonhole). China’s unprecedented growth over the last 3 decades was primarily triggered by export of manufactured goods that have been outsourced through China by the West. But this Asian giant has been very slyly restricting imports, except for raw materials and intermediate goods (for example computer chips are imported from Japan to be assembled in China and then to be shipped to the US).

The US sees this saga as an opportunity to ensure that China complies with the rules of the WTO and ergo protects intellectual property rights, something they haven’t done since they joined the organisation in 2001. But knowing the dragon’s incorrigible tendencies to act in self interest, this dispute may not be dying down very soon. For them, back to the wall literally means back to the Wall...

By:- Sayan Ghosh

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