The American music, movie, software, and video game industries are praising the U.S. government’s annual review of efforts by foreign trading partners to protect intellectual property rights. In a report released late Friday, on the eve of World Intellectual Property Day and amid heightened congressional interest in the issue, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative “special 301” assessment cited improvements by Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Ukraine, Belize and Lithuania but noted continuing problems with China and Russia. In both countries, “enforcement efforts remain inadequate and the copyright industries continue to await truly effective and deterrent enforcement,” said Eric Smith of the International Intellectual Property Alliance, whose group represents the Motion Picture Association of America, Recording Industry Association of America, and others. He called for heightened criminal enforcement, legal reform and greater market access for legitimate content.
China and Russia joined seven countries — Argentina, Chile, India, Israel, Pakistan, Thailand and Venezuela — on USTR’s priority watch list in 2008. The report urged Pakistan to accelerate efforts to combat large-scale illegal optical disc production and retail sales of bootlegged products, and said the U.S. would conduct special “out-of-cycle” reviews this year of Taiwan and Israel. Thirty-six countries made the USTR’s watch list, including newcomers Spain, which has one of the worst Internet infringement rates in Europe, and Greece, where hard-goods knock-offs are rampant, IIPA said. Turkey and Lebanon were moved from the priority watch list to the watch list. MPAA chief Dan Glickman, who is slated to speak today at the National Press Club, lauded the increased attention to Spain, saying Web-based piracy there “has reached an epidemic level” and damaged U.S. and Spanish creators. But the content industry did not succeed in getting Canada moved to the priority watch list, something it has sought for several years.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy; Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.; Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio; House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers; and House Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith have all sponsored bills aimed at helping U.S. law enforcers fight IP theft at home and abroad, but none has come to the floor yet.
This article appears in the May 3, 2008, edition of National Journal Daily.