G-8 leaders unite to combat global piracy

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BRUSSELS -- G-8 leaders meeting in Germany on Friday agreed to join forces in a global effort to clamp down on piracy in the wake of a rising trade in counterfeit movies, music and software.

At the end of their three-day meeting in the Baltic spa town of Heiligendamm, leaders of the Group of Eight -- comprising the world's leading industrialized nations -- adopted a joint statement strongly reaffirming their commitment to protecting intellectual property rights.

"The benefits for economic growth and development are increasingly threatened by infringements of intellectual property rights worldwide," the statement said.

The leaders said they recognized the "urgency" to implement concrete measures to improve cooperation, including strengthening coordination between national customs and law enforcement administrations and launching "technical assistance pilot plans" with key emerging economies to help build the necessary capacity to combat piracy.

They also agreed to look into the creation of an intellectual property rights task force focusing on anti-counterfeiting and piracy -- with a potential mandate to develop new electronic information system for use by customs authorities.

The move comes after an alarming rise in worldwide piracy in recent years, particularly in easily copied DVDs, CDs and software. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who hosted the G-8 meeting, said the German economy alone suffers annual losses on the scale of €25 billion ($34 billion), while the global figure is about €120 billion ($161 billion). A week earlier, EU figures revealed that seizures of counterfeit movies, music and software leapt 139% last year, with 93% of them coming from China.

The G-8 pledge aims to tackle both production and demand for counterfeit products. This means ensuring the issue is addressed in newly emerging economies like China, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa -- now host to most pirated DVD and CD production.

With China in particular keen to play more of a global role, stamping out piracy is expected to become a key determinant of its credibility in influencing the agenda of the G-8 and other groups. In Beijing, Chinese officials responded by promising this month to publish the country's first national strategy on intellectual property rights protection, involving 38 ministries and agencies.

"China has regarded and will regard IPR protection as a national policy, not only to attract foreign investors and develop markets overseas," Chinese government spokesman Yin Xintian said.
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