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  • The United States Trade Representative is launching a review over GSP eligibility for South Africa.
  • This is an indirect way to push for new copyright protection laws in the country, as the existing ones are inadequate.
  • The government of South Africa is known for internet censorship practices, but they don’t care much about pirates.

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) office is expressing their dissatisfaction with how South Africa is dealing with pirates and copyright protection violations in general, so they are very close to imposing trade sanctions. The first step to this is a review that has been launched to look deeper into the South African relevant policies, and if the controls that are in place are deemed inadequate, the US will eventually take the bold step. Previously, the IIPA, MPA, and RIAA have all been vocal about the piracy problem in South Africa, but the results of this action were poor.

While USTR is an American entity, they like to keep a close eye on what is going on around the globe, as the internet, piracy, and loss of money is taking place on a worldwide scale and everything is connected. To help other nations identify the most problematic websites, as well as to apply pressure over other countries, USTR publishes a yearly report containing a watchlist with the greatest dangers and online risks. Countries like South Africa are expected to take this list into account and do everything possible to block the mentioned domains from user access, take them down if possible, and bring any operations in front of justice if they reside in their territories.

Considering the previous version of the list, the USTR has announced a hearing for the GSP country practice reviews of Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Georgia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Thailand, South Africa, and Uzbekistan, and the country designation review of Laos. GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) provides duty-free treatment to goods of the beneficiary countries, so losing this status would have negative effects on the exports of precious goods to the United States, and thus a measurable impact in their national economies. Apparently, for the USTR, piracy is a major issue that is placed at the top of their priorities, constituting a reason for lifting GSP status.

This is bound to shake the South African government, who will have to decide if they will act upon USTR’s requirements or not. On the one side, avoiding the loss of the GSP status is crucial, but on the other, publicly admitting that the U.S. can impose law changes in your country could be difficult for them. Back in March, the South African government proposed a new “internet censorship” law. In May, the nation’s Law Reform Commission proposed the blocking of porn websites. This shows that the country isn’t staying clear from trying to control the internet, but it looks like piracy isn’t one of their greatest concerns. In time, we’ll see if USTR’s review will make it into one.

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