US copyright body calls for priority monitoring of IP rights in 16 countries

A US coalition of intellectual property organisations has called on the US Government to place on its Priority Watch List 16 nations that it closely monitors for ‘the adequacy and effectiveness of intellectual property rights’.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) wants US Trade Representative Susan Schwab to list Argentina, Canada, Chile, China Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, India, Israel, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela when she issues her annual Special 301 Report later this year.

Although this will not necessarily result in action against the listed countries, it does mean that they will be more closely monitored for failures to implement IP rights that could restrict those countries’ freedom to trade with the US.

The IIPA named China and Russia as the worst offenders. While it acknowledged that China has taken steps to improve IP rights, it said that these have had little effect on levels of unauthorised copying and counterfeiting.

‘One positive development has been the long-awaited adoption of regulations governing the Internet which are generally good but remain to be implemented,’ the IIPA said. ‘So far, it is clear that the Chinese government has not devoted sufficient resources to combat rapidly advancing Internet piracy and needs to further clarify underlying legal rules and enforcement procedures, as well as to expand the opportunity for US copyright based industries to offer legitimate materials to the Chinese public.’

It conceded that Russia’s place on the list should be reviewed later in the year in the wake of concessions it has made, but those should not detract from the fact that its ‘copyright piracy problem remains one of the most serious in the world’, running at over 70 per cent in some sectors.

‘Despite the repeated efforts of industry and the US government to convince the Russian government to provide meaningful and deterrent enforcement of its copyright and other laws against optical disc factories and all types of piracy – including some of the most open and notorious websites selling unauthorised materials in the world, such as allofmp3.com – little progress has been made over the years in convincing Russia to take the enforcement actions that could reduce these high piracy levels,’ the IIPA said. ‘Not only is piracy in the domestic market rampant, but pirate exports inundate markets across both Eastern and Western Europe.’

The IIPA wants a further 28 countries, including eight EU members (Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Spain) to be placed on the Watch List. It also listed a further 16 countries with ‘copyright protection, enforcement, and market access problems’.

The IIPA’s Eric Smith said that the growth of broadband globally has threatened many of the hard-won law reform and enforcement gains that have been achieved in many countries.

‘In 2007, IIPA is asking the US government to bring greater pressure to bear, and employ new tools, to improve enforcement systems in most of the countries on these lists,’ he said. ‘Securing deterrent enforcement, as part of implementing the new, and much improved, copyright laws adopted in the last 20 years globally, has clearly become the greatest challenge to our industries, and the most difficult one for our government to address effectively. Many countries are simply unaware of what deterrent enforcement can do to benefit their own economies.’

Turning to specific forms of ‘piracy’, he urged all governments to halt the spread of optical disc piracy (such as industrially produced CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and burned CD-Rs, DVD-Rs) and to tackle the organised criminal syndicates that control it. They should also take steps to combat unauthorised book and journal duplication, including commercial photocopying as well as ‘widespread photocopying condoned by universities’. Finally, Smith said, they should introduce effective legislation and take aggressive enforcement action to deal with the copying of business software and other copyrighted materials within enterprises.

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