After bowing to pressure from the U.S., Spain and Malaysia have been dropped from a high-profile copyright violations watchlist that officials use to pressure countries into changing their laws to align with U.S. intellectual property safeguards. And from the looks of 2012's list, Canada and Israel are up next.

"This year’s the U.S. Special 301 Report [PDF] is more significant than ever in light of recent U.S. Government data showing that IP intensive industries support as many as 40 million American jobs and up to 60 percent of U.S. exports," U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk said in a media advisory. "When trading partners don’t protect IPR, they threaten those critical jobs and exports."

Kirk singled out Spain and Malaysia for praise, noting their disappearance from the 2012 blacklist after years occupying the blacklist. Both nations passed fresh Internet restrictions since the last Special 301 Report, with Spain in particular curbing its citizens' Internet rights most severely.

Much like France responded to U.S. pressure to implement its "three strikes" law, Spain bowed to U.S. pressure by implementing a law which holds ISPs accountable for their users' actions. Spanish ISPs are required to block sites accused of infringement, or face a penalty.

That policy was neglected and ultimately not signed into law by former President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who left office late last year. Just over one week after taking office, current Spanish President Mariano Rajoy Brey adopted those rules at the prompting of U.S. Ambassador Alan D. Solomont, an Obama appointee. Solomont's involvement was revealed in a letter sent to Brey, leaked to Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Canada and Israel, similarly, are just two of 40 nations appearing on the blacklist this year. Neither country is new to the list, and both have seen vigorous public debates in recent years on Internet policy, largely at the U.S. Trade Rep's prompting.

Two pending Canadian bills, C-11 and C-30, essentially represent Canada's attempt to replicate the U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). C-11 would impose strict copyright standards and empower content creators to target "pirate" websites and ban repeat offenders from accessing the Internet. C-30 would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to give authorities private user data, removing the need for a search warrant. Both bills are currently facing a growing public backlash, and it remains unclear if they will pass.

Israel, on the other hand, remains on the list because lawmakers have yet to agree on laws that would extend patent terms and allow for the prosecution of online copyright infringement. The U.S. Trade Rep. also suggested that Israel could be removed from the watch list if it ratifies the WIPO Internet Treaties, which seeks to normalize copyright protections around the world. Kirk did praise Israel, however, for enacting policies that protect against "unfair commercial use" and "unfair disclosure" of test data for pharmaceutical products.

A U.S. Trade Rep. spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

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