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US Lawmakers Criticize China, Russia for Copyright Piracy


The U.S. Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus has put China and Russia at the top of its 2007 watch list of countries where rampant copyright piracy continues, and where governments refuse to take adequate action against violators. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington.

Congressman Adam Schiff co-chairs the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus in the House of Representatives. He says American businesses are losing up to $35 billion a year, globally, because of illegal products that violate patents and copyrights.

"On an individual level, copyright infringement is nothing less than high-tech shoplifting," he said. "In the aggregate, it can destroy whole industries. There's no difference from stealing a DVD from a store, and selling a pirated CD on the street or uploading it to the Internet."

As expected, China topped the list. U.S. businesses are estimated to have lost more than $2 billion in revenues to piracy in China in 2006, and Washington has brought a case against Beijing in the World Trade Organization.

Caucus co-chair Bob Goodlatte said piracy of American copyrighted materials remained, in his words, epidemic in China over the past year.

"Little has changed, primarily because China's enforcement system - providing little more than a slap on the wrist for intellectual property piracy - does not effectively deter violators," he said. "China has taken some steps to address business software piracy, particularly by promoting legally licensed software, but allows piracy to continue largely unchecked in other copyright industries."

Another country singled out for strong criticism is Russia, where pirated products are estimated to cost legitimate U.S. businesses $1 billion in lost revenue.

Goodlatte called on the U.S. government to withhold its support for Russia's WTO membership until Moscow takes stronger measures to deal with the piracy problem.

"I will just reiterate the sense of the U.S. Congress that the U.S. should refrain from completing Russia's WTO accession negotiations until Russia has clearly demonstrated a willingness and ability to provide the kind of copyright protection expected from a WTO partner," he said.

Canada, Mexico and Malaysia were also singled out on the list as countries with serious copyright piracy problems.

The head of the Motion Picture Association of America, Dan Glickman, said the U.S. government should take advantage of the spotlight that is on China in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics to get Beijing to fight pirating more seriously.

"Over a billion people will be watching the Chinese Olympics," said Glickman. "They're spending an awful lot of money to make their country susceptible to being viewed positively around the world."

Meanwhile, Congressmen Schiff and Goodlatte are introducing a resolution in the House of Representatives that calls on foreign governments to stop using unauthorized software and prevent government-owned computers from being used for any form of copyright piracy. They are also urging foreign governments to make their anti-piracy efforts more public, as a way to set an example for the people.

The Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus was formed in 2003 and includes 70 members in both houses of Congress.