In the history of copyright law, legislation in Europe and the US have wound each other up more and more. Everytime when there was a copyright term extension on one side of the ocean, lobbyists on the other side started finger pointing, demanding the same rights to protect artists and the industry. A recent example for such regulatory inspiration has been the EU database directive, which created a sui generis right for the creators of databases which do not qualify for copyright. Ever since this directive had been passed in Europe, lobbyists in the US have tried to introduce a similar provision into US copyright law (see Boyle 2008: 207 ff.). Such regulatory inspiration is neither new nor surprising nor restricted to the domain of copyright.
However, what has been leaked in the Wikileaks cables on the influence of the US on the new Spanish copyright law is way beyond mere inspiration for lobbyists. As reported by the Guardian, in this case the lobbyist has been the US government itself:
The US ambassador in Madrid threatened Spain with “retaliation actions” if the country did not pass tough new internet piracy laws, according to leaked documents. […] In his letter, Solomont [i.e. the US ambassedor] issued veiled threats, reminding its recipients that Spain is on the Special 301, the US trade representatives’ list of countries that do not provide “adequate and effective” protection of intellectual property rights. Spain risks having its position on the list “degraded”, and could join the real blacklist of “the worst violators of global intellectual property rights.”
According to the Guardian, the resulting draft for Spain’s new copyright law is “similar to Protect IP and Sopa, the stop online piracy act, two pieces of anti-piracy legislation now being discussed in the US Congress”. This is not inspiration, this is implementation. And, of course, this is a case not of governance but of government across borders.
Finally, this case also evidences how powerful the list of so-called notorious markets published by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) still is (more on this list at infojustice.org and in Drahos and Braithwaite 2002). Not only developing countries but even large EU member states are effectively pressured with this trade whip.