May 21, 2009

US Lawmakers List Countries Failing To Fight Copyright Piracy

The Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus on Wednesday released a new international watch list for countries that have reached "alarming levels" of piracy of copyrighted materials.

About 70 members of the Senate and House of Representatives released the "2009 International Piracy Watch List," which names the top five offenders to be Canada, China, Mexico, Russia and Spain.

"These countries stand out because of the scope and depth of their piracy problems, which cost the US copyright industries and the millions of Americans who work in these companies billions of dollars," said the caucus, which is chaired by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

"Piracy has reached alarming levels", it added, and is "largely the result of a lack of political will to confront the problem."

They noted that advances in digital technology "hold the promise of a golden age for movies, music, video games and other forms of entertainment," and they are also key to American economic growth.

"Indeed, the combined copyright industries - movies, home video and television programming, music, books, video games and software - generate more revenues than any other single manufacturing sector, including automobiles and auto parts, aircraft and agriculture. They are responsible for more than six percent of the nation's GDP. The film industry alone has a surplus balance of trade with every country in the world," said the caucus.

However, they said piracy and lack of copyright protection have also been ushered in during the digital revolution, causing organized criminals to become involved in DVD and CD piracy.

"Criminals are using the same formidable distribution network and resources that were developed for drug trafficking and arms smuggling," the caucus said in a statement. "The result, in these and other countries, is a virtual evisceration of the legitimate market for American entertainment."

The report noted that industry analysts estimate that piracy costs US companies alone more than $25 billion in sales each year.

"In tough economic times it's more important than ever to safeguard intellectual property," said Senator Whitehouse.

"American entertainment and software companies create millions of jobs, generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, and drive much of our country's research and development. Piracy threatens those jobs, those revenues and the value of that research, and we need bipartisan solutions to stop it."

The caucus said that China has allowed piracy to "contaminate the online marketplace via an array of nefarious illegal websites, file storage sites (and) user generated content sites."

"Despite the Chinese government's many public assurances that it is committed to combating copyright piracy, little action has been taken against infringing online activities," the caucus said.

Canada was blamed for not updating its copyright laws to ensure they are enforced online.

"Canada's enforcement record falls short of what should be expected of our neighbor and largest trading partner," it said.

Additionally, the caucus said Internet piracy in Spain has "reached an epidemic level," as peer-to-peer piracy is seen as "an acceptable cultural phenomenon, and the situation is exacerbated by a government policy that has essentially decriminalized illicit P2P file sharing."

"Fostering strong intellectual property protection builds the economies of not only developed nations, like ours, but for any nation striving to achieve a vibrant and growing economy," said Senator Hatch.

"Conversely, counterfeiting and piracy cripple growth and stifle innovation. Many do not understand that ideas, inventions, artistic works, and other commercially viable products created out of one's own mental processes deserve the same protection under the law as any tangible product or piece of real estate. Unfortunately, some believe that if they find it on the Internet then it must be free. We must stop this destructive mindset."

"Just as we don't allow cars to be stolen off the lots of Ford or GM dealerships, we cannot allow movies, music and computer programs to be stolen from motion picture studios, recording studios and software manufacturers," said Representative Adam Schiff.


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