Heat-seeking US election rhetoric finds Swiss “piracy”

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Anything goes in the US presidential elections, when it comes to lambasting and finding easy targets, but one of the oddest moves appeared Thursday, with the “Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus” adding Italy and Switzerland to its black list. They join Russia, China and Ukraine on the list.

Switzerland, according to the group of 46 members of Congress, acts as a “magnet” for piracy.

The congressional group does not speak for the full Congress, which is divided over the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

William New, editor of industry journal IP Watch, told GenevaLunch that

“The US is in the throes of election-year foment, and somehow internet piracy appears to be among the issues caught up in it. But more than anything, the US is most likely using this as a way to pressure any country that has shown reticence in adopting the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). After the public outcry in Europe led to its defeat earlier this year, Switzerland and most other ACTA partners calmly put it on a wait and see mode. The US is looking for ways to pressure even its closest and most reliable allies like Switzerland to move forward on adoption of ACTA.”

A key issue for the group appears to be strict Swiss data protection laws. The group put Switzerland on a watch list in 2011. In its executive summary for its review of Switzerland it wrote, in relation to a 2010 Swiss federal court decision on anti-piracy company Logistep:

“In November 2011, the Federal Council published a report that forecloses any effort in the near future to resurrect the discovery of a crucial piece of information needed to bring a copyright infringement action. The Logistep decision, issued by Switzerland’s highest court, required Logistep AG to stop collecting the IP addresses of suspected infringers that it turned over to right holders for purposes of pursuing civil actions. In doing so, the Federal Supreme Court held in favor of a 2008 recommendation issued by the Swiss Data Protection Authority (FDPIC), which argued that Switzerland’s Data Protection Act (DPA) only allows such data harvesting to be used in criminal actions.”

Switzerland has not issued an official reaction, but Swiss media reported Thursday that for these politicians, Swiss law is inadequate. Not everyone agrees. William New points out:

“Switzerland has a long history of being one of the strongest nations on IP rights, and has shown it again and again in negotiations at the World Intellectual Property Organization and World Trade Organization. Switzerland has a great deal of IP to protect as one of the top rights holding countries, but it also is repeatedly ranks at the top globally in innovation and competitiveness, suggesting that it when it comes to the balance between protection and access, it really gets it.”