January 9, 2004
Though this will come as no surprise to those who regularly read the news, the latest actions by the United States government once again reinforce the notion that the flimsily-defined conceit of so-called "intellectual property", or IP, has taken a greater precedence in political and diplomatic relations than, say, human rights, poverty, or feminism.
While it's highly unlikely that modern-day IP expert Lawrence Lessig is booking the next flight to Seoul to better examine these issues, those in South Korea who profit in the trade of bootlegged Tom Cruise films and G-Unit compact discs are being closely watched by U.S. trade officials. Correction: "priority watched", which is the official term given by the American officials, who feel that the nation's relative inattention to policing the trade of copyrighted-but-bootlegged works falls short of the desired standards, to say the least, and could potentially lead to the United States' enforcing economic sanctions against South Korea in the near future. "Economic sanctions", of course, are the punitive trade policies against which pundits on both the left and the right customarily speak out.
If you failed history and/or geography, or just have trouble locating smaller nations like Burkina Faso on a map, bear in mind that while South Korea is in Asia, it is not China, the most prominently piracy-prone nation on the continent (but we can't go about enacting bold economic sanctions against our pseudo-communist, secretly-capitalist cheap-goods trade partner, right?).
In that vein, the gist of the complaint seems to be leveled against "online piracy" moreso than the old-fashioned street vendor system. While it's understandable that the American entertainment industry would want to protect its own interests, it's nonetheless hard to empathize with the record labels and studios of late, what with all those lawsuits against music fans and increased ticket prices and screener bans and "fair use" violations.
South Korea, remember: you're on "priority watch," lest you wind up in the "Axis of Sanctions," joining your neighbors to the North, as well as Syria, Libya, and Burma, to name but a few.
Because, of course, it's only fair to group IP violations with human rights issues, right? And that's why the United States is considering sanctions against China, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, et al. Oh, wait...the U.S. is not considering sanctions against these nations?
I'm sorry, I must having been too busy watching my illegally downloaded double-CD DivX copy of "The Mirror Has Two Faces" to have expected the United States to have a consistent set of values in its multilateral relations.
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