Trade rep asked to verify piracy vows


WASHINGTON -- The copyright industries are asking the federal government to take a Reaganesque approach to trade, telling the United States Trade Representative that the administration needs to trust but verify other nation's commitments to protect American intellectual property.

In submissions Monday to USTR Susan Schwab, the motion picture, movie, computer games and other industries that depend on copyrighted works for their business said the government should ensure that U.S. trading partners live up to their commitments.

Noting that the two biggest producers of stolen copyrighted works have made new or renewed commitments to stamping out piracy, the MPAA, RIAA and the International Intellectual Property Alliance told the USTR that the government shouldn't ease up on Russia and China based only on their promises.

The IIPA is an umbrella organization that represents all sectors of the copyright industries from the producers of audio-visual material to computer software.

"While policymakers in many countries have woken up to the fact that protecting works of cultural expression serves their economic, cultural and social objectives, in too many places we still confront problems that could easily be addressed," RIAA international affairs executive vp Neil Turkewitz said. "In many countries, a political recognition that piracy should not be countenanced is not matched by a determination to take appropriate enforcement steps to address it."

The IIPA estimates that piracy losses, excluding Internet piracy, to the U.S. copyright industries last year ran between $30 billion-$35 billion worldwide. Russia cost the U.S. $2.18 billion, while piracy in China ran $2.2 billion, a slight decrease from last year. Piracy in China for the record companies ran about $206 million in 2006. In Russia, recordings piracy ran about $423 million.

For the motion picture industry, piracy costs in 2005 totaled about $244 million in China and $266 million in Russia. Numbers for 2006 were not available for the motion picture industry because the MPAA is revising the methodology it uses to generate piracy statistics abroad, according to the IIPA. If the motion picture stats were included the picture would get worse.

"While there have been developments in both these key markets over the year, the bottom line is that piracy levels have not come down at all or only marginally, and some problems have grown worse," IIPA president Eric Smith said.

The USTR uses the numbers generated by the IIPA as it attempts to encourage other countries to protect intellectual property. The stats could become extremely significant if the U.S. ever brings a case before the WTO, as they could generate the amount of economic retaliation the country would be entitled to extract.