RIAA, Other Copyright Groups' Report To Trade Rep Hits China, Russia For Continuing Lack Of Intellectual Property Protections
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), in conjunction with other copyright based organizations that comprise the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), filed a report with the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) under a section of trade law known as "Special 301." Under Special 301, USTR is required to identify countries that fail to provide adequate and effective protection for U.S. intellectual property and to take appropriate actions, including the possible imposition of trade sanctions and the loss of certain trading privileges.
This year's report, available on the IIPA website at www.IIPA.com, outlines problems in a wide variety of countries but particularly stresses continuing problems in Russia and China. The RIAA issued the following statement from Neil Turkewitz, executive vice president responsible for international affairs.
"Today's filing provides an interesting glimpse into the nature of the variety of problems encountered by U.S. copyright owners in foreign markets. While policy makers in many countries have woken up to the fact that protecting works of cultural expression serves their economic, cultural and social objectives, in too many places we still confront problems that could easily be addressed. In many countries, a political recognition that piracy should not be countenanced is not matched by a determination to take appropriate enforcement steps to address it.
“There is certainly a growing awareness among policy makers around the globe that the protection of intellectual property is key to achieving economic growth and competitiveness in the 21st century. It is also a key tool for creating incentives for investment in the creation and distribution of cultural materials – and thereby promoting cultural diversity. It is our hope that today's report will help governments to develop realistic programs and policies that will promote effective protection. As in the past few years, China and Russia dominate much of today's report.
"China has taken enormous strides in publicly recognizing the importance of intellectual property protection, but has not taken enforcement actions to effectively address this rampant problem. China clings to a system of administrative punishment that has proven to be ineffective in reducing piracy, regardless of the number or intensity of administrative actions taken. Our experience with anti-piracy campaigns around the world demonstrates that without criminal prosecutions and deterrent sentencing, commercial pirates will remain in business and absorb whatever costs are imposed under administrative or civil procedures.
"We hope that China will quickly move to modify its practices in this regard and that we will avoid the initiation of a WTO case related to this matter. We also call upon Chinese leaders to ensure that policies related to the distribution of sound recordings in the physical and online markets do not impede legitimate commerce. Chinese restrictions on legitimate operations have too often thwarted the development of legitimate production and distribution while unwittingly providing enhanced opportunities for pirate enterprises. These must be reviewed and hopefully modified.
"The situation in Russia continues to be extremely alarming. Russia is simultaneously home to some of the biggest criminal enterprises involved in production and global trafficking in pirate optical discs and to some of the world's most notorious pirate websites, such as allofmp3.com.
"A ray of hope emerged last year with the negotiation of a U.S.-Russia IPR Agreement, under which Russia has committed to take effective action against physical and online piracy. This agreement has been referred to as the ‘roadmap to WTO accession,' and we hope that Russia will follow this map religiously. Our filing reflects our view that until Russia has met its obligations under this agreement, its WTO accession should not be completed. If Russia fails to meet its obligations under this agreement, the United States should respond accordingly and unilaterally impose sanctions on Russian exports to the United States.
"We hope that it will not come to that – particularly given that Russian economic and cultural interests are the same as ours. Nevertheless, whether our hopes are realized is dependent upon actions that only the Russian government can determine. All we can do is demand accountability and ensure that there are ramifications for failure in the unfortunate event that we reach that point."
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