Ironic licensing

Following a post today on SpicyIP I realize that I sometimes get feelings of guilt for not blogging.

See, that post is about licensing issues, more specifically, an ironic license given to an essay about media piracy in developing economies. The essence is that this essay is given an (online) license which asks readers with IP-addresses originating in a developed economy for a license fee of… quite a lot. Whereas IP-addresses originating in developing economies get the essay for free. Where this puts the people of many economies in South-East Asia or the Middle-East, where the economies could certainly be considered ”developing” (or for that matter China) but the internet is so heavily censored that foreign IP:s through proxies are the only way of getting access to any material, presumably including this essay, the story doesn’t tell. Either the licensors didn’t consider that, or this is considerably more ironic than one would have guessed.

I find licensing, and exhaustion of intellectual property rights, very indecent. The reason you might want to give different licenses in India or the EU, for instance, is that you want to sell your copyrighted material for a cheaper price in India than in the EU. But all of the union is certainly not rich or fully developed (consider Romania and Bulgaria, for instance, also the only two nations in Europe that appear to be investing in cost free education, while other member states are obviously moving in the opposite direction: let’s remember the UK, or why not the much criticized, new fees on education in Sweden?). This is made possible by the European Union regional exhaustion. Well. Simplified. I guess. Also slightly misleading. As far as I understand it, you should be able to give licenses to one and same company to sell the same book (for instance) in both regions but charging different prices (which are set by the copyright holder?).

The European Union is negotiating a new trade agreement with India. This is a cause for concerns, especially in India. The European Union can hardly enforce stricter rules in the Indian agreement than they have already enforced in the Union itself (or can they?) so the question is if it will get much attention here. India is not party to the ACTA negotiations since India is usually somewhat problematic when it comes to defining TRIPs-plus or GATT/GATS-plus rules. India is somewhat dependent on exports though, and in a FTA-battle with one of their major trading partners, without the strength of WIPO/WTO coalition of BRIC-countries (basically, together they can stand up for themselves, one on one it’s more difficult, the exception being perhaps China, which is now the second largest economy in the world). Well… India is going to have a harder time not succumbing to demands that are not necessarily favourable. For them.

Looking at the South Korea-FTA, it is difficult to imagine that the EU would force a regionalisation of intellectual property rights exhaustion in India. At least! Nevertheless, check this out if you want more extensive information on Indian bilateral trade agreements. If you want information on European trade agreements, please do not that while most bilateral trade agreements are negotiated by the European Commission executives on behalf of all member states, but that many member states have their own separate agreements with third parties. The European Union is such a horrible mess. 70 bilaterals for the Union alone, and how many for each member state? It makes me feel a bit like this.

More on the research report (with extensive quotations) at Techdirt, or why not the report itself?

Note: bilaterals.org reports that it is not yet time for a Taiwan-India FTA. I need to investigate this further. China hasn’t signed that many bilateral agreement in the past. One of them is with Serbia, but maybe their trade empire is expanding.

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