16 countries recommended for U.S. government watchdogs against digital piracy

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), a coalition representing copyright-based industries such as the MPAA, RIAA, BSA and the ESA, submitted its recommendations to the Bush administration in its “Special 301” review of copyright piracy and market access problems around the world.

As they have in past years, China and Russia remain key problem countries, but most surprising to some are the new additions the coalition is targeting for 2007. IIPA recommends that an additional 14 countries be placed on the “Priority Watch List,” joining China and Russia for a total of 16 countries.

“Many of the key markets around the world that are infected with high levels of copyright piracy or deny effective market access to copyright industries,” said Eric H. Smith of the IIPA. “The unwillingness of the countries identified in our submission to curb high rates of piracy – in most countries, through more effective and deterrent enforcement – saps the U.S. economy of the high-paying jobs and strong growth rates that make this sector critical to the health of the U.S. economy.”

Canada is targeted as one of the biggest offenders out of all developed nations. “Canada’s long tenure on the USTR Watch List seems to have had no discernible effect on its copyright policy. Almost alone among developed economies in the OECD, Canada has taken no steps toward modernizing its copyright law to meet the new global minimum standards of the WIPO Internet Treaties,” the IIPA wrote in its filing to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab. “Its enforcement record also falls far short of what should be expected of our neighbor and largest trading partner … Canada lacks effective border controls on pirated products, and most of its other enforcement efforts suffer from insufficient resources and a lack of deterrent impact.”

The report states that pirates have taken advantage of the gaps in Canadian law to make it a “leading exporter” of camcorder bootleg movies and modchips for video game consoles. Officials at Industry Canada did not comment directly on the report, but spokesman David Dummer did say to the Globe and Mail, “The government of Canada is working actively on the copyright file and will take the time necessary to ensure that revisions to this important framework legislation have been fully thought through.”

The IIPA indicated that the new Canadian Conservative government that took office in March 2006 has expressed greater commitment to modernization of Canada’s copyright laws than did the previous Liberal rule, but to date it has not released a draft of legislation.

Steering its attentions from north to south of the U.S., the IIPA also lists Mexico as the other sore spot in North America. Out of all estimated total trade losses due to piracy, Mexico ranked only behind China and Russia, making it the third highest on the priority watch list. Mexico’s estimated $1 billion lost is less than half of the losses from China and Russia, but is almost double of Canada’s fourth place $551 million.

“The sheer dimension of the piracy problem in the Mexican market remains severe. Piracy involving hard goods, optical discs, Internet piracy, street piracy, and unauthorized photocopying at universities continued at high levels,” the IIPA wrote.

The IIPA suggests that Mexico must focus efforts to fight piracy in well-know street markets (San Juan de Dios in Guadalajara) and distribution centers (such as like Tepito in the Federal District) where vast quantities of pirated goods are sold in broad daylight. Other recommendations include: increased resources for enforcement agencies and improved public awareness of the nature and repercussions of rampant piracy; intensified judicial training; stronger border measures; and stopping illegal photocopying by copy shops on or near major university campuses.

The IIPA is not only targeting countries that are inducing massive trade losses, the coalition is also putting priority on governments who do not have appropriate copyright laws in place. For example, Israel ranks near the bottom in terms of total losses at $98 million, but is on the priority list because of the IIPA’s dissatisfaction with a copyright bill passed by the Knesset, the Israeli government’s legislative body.

“The bill, if passed in its current language, would discriminate against foreign producers of sound recordings specifically, and potentially violate Israel’s bilateral obligations to the United States. The government of Israel should refrain from taking any steps that would weaken copyright protection, particularly for foreign sound recordings, at a time when copyright protection is increasingly fragile in Israel,” filed the IIPA.

The IIPA finds that the bill draft does not include provisions to protect against circumvention of technological protection measures used to protect digital artistic works and should be rejected by the Knesset. The IIPA also complains that the Israeli police “are not actively pursuing Internet piracy cases and are not willing to assist in the raiding of Internet pirates.”

Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela are the other countries named in the IIPA’s Priority Watch List.

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