European Commission forms anti-piracy coalition


BRUSSELS -- The European Commission on Tuesday unveiled plans for an anti-piracy pact with the U.S., Japan and South Korea.

The plan calls for better international coordination, consensus on the best enforcement practices and alignment of laws to ensure that strong criminal, civil and border protection measures are in place. The move is the first major global initiative to fight counterfeiting, and officials say it could help turn the tide against the proliferation of illegally copied movies, music and software.

Dubbed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, it also aims to keep pace with the changing nature of intellectual property theft as digital storage allows films and music to be copied at ever-faster rates.

"A new international anti-counterfeiting treaty will strengthen global cooperation and establish new international norms, helping to create a new global gold standard on intellectual property rights enforcement," EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said.

Officials said the pact will look at the increasing role of the Internet in spreading pirate digital content as governments have struggled to tackle Web sites and peer-to-peer services offering free copyrighted material.

The move is expected to put more pressure on China, which produces the vast majority of the pirated DVDs, CDs and software sold in the U.S. and Europe. However, commission officials insist the initiative is not aimed at ganging up on China, but rather creating a group of countries that want to beef up patent enforcement.

The initiative was backed by Vivendi chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou, who also is the co-chair of Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy.

"This is a significant step in the right direction and could provide a breakthrough in efforts to stop the escalating problems of product counterfeiting and copyright piracy," Fourtou said. "This proposed agreement recognizes that governments globally must escalate the sophistication and the intensity of their intellectual property enforcement efforts and represents an important contribution to stemming today's destructive flood of counterfeiting and piracy."

It also was backed by music lobby IPFI, which said that nearly one in three music discs sold worldwide is pirated and about 20 billion songs are illegally downloaded via peer-to-peer networks annually.

"We are looking to the EU and its partners to make the fight against Internet piracy a top priority," IFPI executive vp Frances Moore said.