28 September 2004

Value Added?

One of the more idiotic provisions of federal trade law prohibits the editing of books imported from Certain Countries (Cuba, Iran, etc.). Here's a NYT summary of this mess. The alleged purpose of this provision is to keep anyone in the home nations from profiting from American efforts that "add value" to their exports. The actual purpose seems to be either to prevent people in this country, including intelligence analysts, from having a clear idea of what is actually being said in those Certain Countries, or perhaps just to piss off people who give a rat's ass about it.

This is an excellent example of what happens when one allows foreign-policy ideology to influence what is rightly a First Amendment issue. There are a lot of countries that "should" be on the sanctions list, but aren't, due solely to ideology: Their trade-related behavior (and often behavior in everything except calling the US a "friend") is identical to nations that are on The List. Then, too, there's the moronic "thou shalt not correct errors" aspect of the rule, which allows publication only of work that is imported in camera-ready form.

The whole issue of selective trade sanctions leaves a lot to be desired. It's also inconsistent with our obligations under WIPOĆ¢€¦ <SARCASM> but the US would never, ever violate a treaty that it signed, would it? </SARCASM>