For our last site visit in Brussels, we visited the US Mission to the European Union to get an American perspective on the transatlantic relationship that we have been studying throughout the program’s duration. While expecting to discuss issues like Iran, China, and trade, the briefer, who was an intellectual property and copyright lawyer in the embassy, discussed his work fighting copyright infringement. Even though we were not able to ask about general, large-scale diplomatic questions, his talk on the complexities of international copyright law was an interesting change of pace to the more technical, everyday work of personnel at the embassies.
He began his talk describing how the embassy is set up and the day-to-day challenges faced by those who work there. The larger embassy is broken into subsections that correspond to departments in the US. For example, the section he worked in was the US Commercial Service, which corresponds to the US Department of Commerce. He described the complexities of intellectual property (IP) law. IP touches other areas of law and is therefore not an isolated practice within the US Embassy. The briefer has to interact daily with other organizations and agencies within and outside the embassy when working. The US Embassy has to work especially close to Washington to make sure that there is a complete, cohesive position within the EU when it comes to IP law and policy. The IP office also has to work with American companies and all parties involved to get a comprehensive view for what is best for the US, its people, and its economy.
A case study examined at the briefing was the recent directive passed in March concerning copyright and IP rules for the Internet. He started off with the creative content on YouTube. Since there are many different aspects that go into a work, multiple parties have to contribute to the conversation in the US embassy to make sure the best policy for the US is pursued. As a group, we went over the interests the US had in that specific case compared to the EU. The US was mostly concerned about how the new law affects major US corporations and companies operating within the European Union while the EU was attempting to engage all sectors involved in the copyright process, giving a little bit to everyone while protecting the interests of the EU. The main takeaways that can be drawn from the briefing are that US interests are diverse, positions taken need to benefit the transatlantic economy, the day-to-day operations at the US embassy are complex, and various offices need to be flexible with different sectors of the economy to be successful.
After the official briefing, we were able to ask questions to the interns, Lizzy and Sam, who were working at the embassy. This was particularly interesting and insightful for me because I have a strong interest in working for the government, either for an internship or as a career. Some notable insights offered by the interns were that the day-to-day at an embassy is less lofty and theory focused and more in the weeds, the operations are more dynamic than initially was expected by them, and in working for the government, you are working for your country, not an administration.
After our Q&A with the interns, we had a presentation by the Fulbright director for the Belgium, Luxembourg, and Schuman programs. This speaker was particularly dynamic and engaging as she regaled us with the story of her time as an intern with the state department and her surprise meeting with Hugo Chavez. The Fulbright program for students and professionals is an amazing opportunity to pursue what you are passionate about and get a global perspective while conducting research. After speaking to multiple people on the program, the general consensus from the group was that the presentation was eye-opening and the opportunity presented was an exciting one. Personally, I would be interested in pursuing the Fulbright Scholarship in the future, and I got the feeling that many others in the group would as well.
Our visit to the US Mission to the EU was a great way to finish off our leg of the trip in Brussels on a really positive note. The presentations not only covered concrete issues that are dealt with daily in the embassy, but also future career and research opportunities. Au revoir/Vaarwel to Brussels and Bună ziua Romania!