Between 2013 and 2018, the software app development ecosystem was said to lose $3-4 billion annually to pirated apps and IPR violations, according to a submission by the App Association, to the US Trade Representative’s Special 301 review, which will be published in April. Losses resulted from copying of apps, extraction and re-use of content from within apps, disabling an app’s locks or advertising keys, and reverse-engineering of apps to masquerade as legitimate apps but are vehicles to collect private information or to attack users.
Not to mention copyright violations and theft of content and services in countries around the world.
That and the following are highlights from the 71 comments submitted as of the date of this article (which will be updated after the final comment period closes).
The submission by the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) cited China as a concern “given its position as the epicentre of the manufacture and export of both illegal streaming devices (ISDs) and software applications which enable access to pirated content.” ISDs are widely available in IT malls in Hong Kong, and deterrence is “negligible.” In the Philippines, 61% of users access premium content via piracy websites, ISDs or social media, and the rate is similar in Malaysia and Vietnam.
Futher piracy concerns
The English Premier League commented that requests to Argentina going back as far as 2018 to take copyright enforcement actions have been “ineffective, with hardly any administrative or criminal actions, and also cited China as a source of illegal devices in widespread use. It also described the China-based EVPAD service, which was added to the European Commission’s Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List 2022, as offering thousands of channels as popular around the world, but unavailable in China itself. It also noted challenges from Iraq, Thailand and Vietnam and requested all of these countries be posted on the Special 301 Watch List.
The beIN Media Group LLC and Miramax LLC jointly highlighted the Middle East and North Africa region as particularly “brazen” and urged closer scrutiny of piracy practices in Iraq, where the more than one third of all pirate distribution of beIN channels originates – and detailing three piracy operations that originate there: Shabakaty and Chaloos (including iStar and Mediastar), which it also cited in its 2020 and 2021 Special 301 submissions, plus Family Box, which is new.
beIN Media has also had ongoing experience with copyright infringement in Lebanon, where beIN content is being illegally transmitted “without consequences.” Algeria, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia were also cited by beIN Media and Miramax.
The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) recommended that 11 countries be listed in the USTR’s Special 301 Watch List, plus an additional nine countries to its Priority Watch List. One of several countries where “reforms and modernization of national copyright laws have failed to keep pace with market and technological trends” was Canada.
IIPA’s summary of the situation in Canada ran the full gamut, reporting that “In 2022, 22.4% of Canadians accessed pirate services.”
IIPA continued: “The subscription piracy ecosystem has continued to grow in Canada, in which widely marketed sellers and resellers of subscription piracy services enable cord-cutting Canadians to obtain unauthorized access to high-quality, digital streaming and VOD content. Many of these illegal services in Canada have generated millions of dollars in revenue, oftentimes laundering the money through seemingly legitimate businesses set up solely for this purpose… ”
“Easily and widely available, STBs are sold online on dedicated Canadian-owned-and-operated websites, on third-party marketplace sites, and in traditional retail locations throughout Canada. The sale of paid subscription piracy services and STBs in otherwise legitimate retail spaces, combined with the deceptive marketing and high-quality promotional materials produced by those selling these products and services, has led to consumer confusion regarding their legality.”
IIPA makes detailed recommendations toward regulation and enforcement of copyright.
Regulatory action works
Cutting off supply through site blocking has proven effective in South Asia, where there has been a concerted effort to work with national regulators in the region.
“More than 50% of Indonesian consumers said they either no longer access pirate content, or rarely do as a direct result of sites being blocked. … more than 70% of Indonesian consumers said they now used legitimate free content, and more than a quarter said they had taken up a paid subscription service as a direct result of pirate streaming services being blocked, said AVIA. “In Malaysia, we saw 65% of consumers using legitimate content and 32% subscribing to paid services,” they said.
About the Review process
Each spring, the Office of the US Trade Representative releases the results of an annual review of the global state of IP protection and enforcement, as its Special 301 report.
The deadline for submission of public comments closed at the end of January, and close on Feb 13 for submissions by foreign governments. Through March and April, the USTR reviews comments, poses questions back to the submitters, and at the end of April, releases its Special 301 report.
Comments submitted: Request for Comments, 2023 Special 301 Review. Office of the United States Trade Representative, Docket Number USTR-2022-0016, published in the US Federal Register, December 14, 2022
Announcement in the US Federal Register: Request for Comments and Notice of a Public Hearing Regarding the 2023 Special 301 Review. Office of the United States Trade Representative, Docket Number USTR-2022-0016, published in the US Federal Register, December 15, 2022
Why it matters
Based on the Special 301 review, the U.S. Trade Representative determines which, if any, of these countries to identify as Priority Foreign Countries. USTR requests written comments that identify acts, policies, or practices that may form the basis of a country’s identification as a Priority Foreign Country or placement on the Priority Watch List or Watch List.
The Special 301 review and report are named after Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. §2411), the statutory framework under which the “US imposes sanctions on foreign countries that violate US trade agreements” (CRS Reports)
The Special 301 Report complements the USTR’s annual Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy (Notorious Markets List), which was released on January 31, 2023.
The Notorious Markets List identifies examples of online and physical markets that reportedly engage in, facilitate, turn a blind eye to, or benefit from substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting, based upon information submitted to the USTR during a public comment period.