The US Trade Representative (USTR) is a government agency responsible for developing the US trade policy. They provide negotiating expertise in their areas of responsibility, which includes “bilateral, regional and multilateral trade issues”, “trade-related intellectual property protection issues” and “international commodity agreements”. For example, it was the US Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab that announced ACTA on the 23rd of October 2007

In April every year the (USTR) publishes the so-called “Special 301-report”. These reports include two watch lists, “The Priority Watch List” and “The Watch List”, where every country which is considered to have an inadequate legislation about intellectual property rights is listed. (Title 19, Chapter 12, Subchapter 1, Part 8, § 2242 – Identification of countries that deny adequate protection, or market access, for intellectual property rights)

When a country has been listed on one of the Watch Lists, they are threatened to negotiate with the US. If the country doesn’t make significant progress in bilateral or multilateral negotiations, the US has the right to establish unilateral trade sanctions against this nation. The report and the watch lists is used to pressure other nations to adopt a stricter copyright laws and take a more active role in combating copyright infringements.

In 2008, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) recommended to the USTR that Sweden should be put on the Watch List because of the country’s “severe problems of Internet piracy and Sweden’s underlying legal and enforcement framework to combat it”. IIPA also wrote about The Pirate Bay, and the upcoming trial against the owners of the site, in their recommendation. Sweden was not put on the Special 301-report’s Watch List in 2008, but was mentioned in the report, “Internet piracy is a significant concern in a number of countries, including Canada, China, Sweden…”

IIPA recommended a place on the Watch List for Sweden again in 2009, this time because the country was considered to have failed to reform the deficient legislation and enforcement infrastructure. This year too, Sweden was mentioned in the USTR’s report “In April 2009, a Swedish court convicted four defendants in connection with the Pirate Bay website…”, but since Sweden now had achieved five out of the six reforms the US wanted to see, they were not on the Watch List this year either. In 2010, Wikileaks published a letter from the US embassy in Stockholm to the US government. In this letter the embassy described a close cooperation between the Swedish and the US governments. This cooperation has been strongly denied by the Swedish Minister of Justice, Beatrice Ask.

The Swedish Pirate Party wants the non-commercial sharing of culture to be decriminalized, as the sharing promotes both the production and sale of culture.

Amelia Andersdotter, MEP, wrote about the importance of decriminlization of non-commercial sharing culture on her blog. She also upploaded a video where she asked Karel De Gucht about the 301-reports and she mentioned these questions in one of her written inquiries later.


Amelia’s first question (2012-05-30) on this subject concerned whether the Commission was going to lift the issue, about the US putting individual member states on the “Priority Watch List”, to the World Trade Organization (WTO). She also wanted to know how the Commission otherwise was going to ensure the stability of the internal market. To this the Commission answered that since there is nothing to suggest that the US do not intend to honor its commitments, they see no reason to lift the issue to the WTO again. The Commission also stated that the “Special 301-report” is rather addressed in the context of a dialogue and exchange of information with the member state.

The next question (2012-07-16) concerns the fact that one of the Commission's member had explained to Amelia that he dislikes the fact that the US puts individual member states on the Watch Lists. She therefore asks the Commission if they plan to take further action when it comes to stop the USTR from putting member states on the lists. The Commission answered here that they have regular contact with their American colleagues at the political level and that they discuss the intellectual rights regularly. The Commission refers to the answer on Amelia’s last question in the subject.

Amelia’s third question (2012-09-04) about the reports is what the Commission more specifically does to ensure that the Special 301-reports is not used to fragment the internal market. The Commission refers to the answers on earlier questions in the subject, and clarifies that they do not know of any cases where the Special 301-reports or any similar kind of “soft law” has stanched the internal market.

In the next question (2012-11-06) to the Commission, Amelia gives an example of when the Special 301-reports have been used to stanch the internal market. She tells the Commission about a telegram which later led to the “Sinde Law”. To this, the Commission answers that it is up to every member state to adjust the laws as they want, provided that it is compatible with the EU-regulations, and that they don’t know what was in that telegram and therefore can not comment it.

Amelia’s next question (2012-12-03) in the subject is whether or not the Commission has evaluated the negative effects of threat of punitive actions, and what the Commission does to prevent that an excessively strict enforcing by the intellectual rights leads to an arbitrary restriction of the Freedom of expression. The Commission says that they haven’t evaluated the bilateral diplomatic relations, and that none of the countries receiving development grants has reported any of the negative effects that Amelia has mentioned.

The sixth question (2013-01-22) on this subject is about whether the Commission has a strategy in the event that foreign powers tries to affect the decision making in EU. She also wants to know if the Commission can prove that they whatsoever has considered the impact that the Special 301-reports is likely to have on domestic legislation. The Commission hasn’t answered this question yet.