Nations partner to foil pirates

U.S. toughens up with EU, Mexico, Korea, others

The Bush administration plans to step up the fight against copyright piracy by negotiating anti-counterfeiting agreements with its major trading partners, the nation's top trade negotiator said Tuesday.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said that the administration expects to join with other countries to negotiate an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that would toughen efforts to confront copyright piracy.

"Global counterfeiting and piracy steal billions of dollars from workers, artists and entrepreneurs each year and jeopardize the health and safety of citizens across the world," Schwab told a Capitol Hill news conference Tuesday. "Today launches our joint efforts to confront counterfeiters and pirates across the global marketplace."

The agreement, which the administration hopes to negotiate quickly, would set a higher benchmark for enforcement that countries will be able to join on a voluntary basis, Schwab said.

"The U.S. looks forward to partnering with many of our key trading partners to combat this global problem," Schwab said.

She said the U.S. was in discussions with Canada, the 27-nation European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and Switzerland about developing the agreement, which would support high enforcement standards against copyright piracy.

It is envisioned as a complement to rules already on the books against copyright piracy that are overseen by the World Trade Organization, Schwab said.

The agreement is intended to increase cooperation among countries, set up "best practices" for fighting intellectual property theft and developing a strong legal framework to prosecute violations of intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property organizations lauded the proposal, saying it could herald a new era of international cooperation on the issue.

"This agreement has real potential to improve the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in major markets around the world," MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman said. "We think this agreement will help shift the international debate on intellectual property rights in favor of international cooperation and strong enforcement standards."

A coalition of music industry groups, including the performance rights organizations, the major labels and publishers also hailed the agreement.

"If creators around the world are going to be able to continue to live from their craft, then governments must step up their enforcement actions and legal systems must demand greater accountability on the part of all parties involved in the transmission of infringing materials," the organizations said.