Copyright biz watching Russia

Wants promises kept as country is admitted into WTO

Copyright industry leaders are expressing guarded optimism about a deal struck between Washington and Moscow that would require Russia to significantly upgrade its intellectual property protections as a quid pro quo for admission into the World Trade Organization.

The bilateral agreement between the Americans and Russians was formally approved this month by U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Russian Minister of Trade and Economic Development German Gref (HR 11/11).

According to Schwab, the agreement puts in place a strong and enforceable bilateral blueprint for protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. Implementation of the commitments on intellectual property, agriculture and industrial goods will be essential to completing the final multilateral negotiations on the overall accession package, she said.

Said Schwab, "This is a strong and far-reaching commercial agreement that meets the high standards of President Bush's market-opening trade agenda and moves Russia closer to full integration into the global, rules-based trading system."

While copyright industry executives were pleased that a deal has been reached, they were wary of the hollow promises.

"While MPAA's long-held position has been that Russia must make progress on IP enforcement before the bilateral negotiations close, we view this as a constructive way forward and appreciate USTR's ongoing efforts to advance the protection of intellectual property in Russia," MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman said. "We fully expect Russia to meet the agreement's benchmarks before Russia is permitted to join the WTO. Implementation of this agreement will certainly benefit Russian creators and producers as much as — if not more than — U.S. rights-holders."

Record labels echoed the sentiment.

"There is little doubt that Russia's full integration into the world trading system will bring benefits to both the Russian and the global communities," RIAA international executive vp Neil Turkewitz said. "Greater transparency, the operation of the rule of law and further liberalization of Russia's economy hold promise for improving the lives of Russians — and should also lead to enhanced global prosperity and stability.

"That 'promise,' however, remains just that," he added. "There is a long road before that potential can be realized."

Russia is No. 2 on the MPAA's list of pirate nations, behind China. MPAA member companies lost $266 million to piracy last year in Russia alone, with losses topping $1.3 billion during the past five years, the studios said.