International Piracy and Efforts to Stop It

Intellectual property theft on an international level has been a problem that does not seem to be going away despite many United States and international efforts to slow down and eventually stop the intellectual property piracy.  Movies, music, books, and other digital entertainment are some of the main IP industries hit hard, but IP theft has also been problematic for many other industries including pharmaceuticals and computer programming.  “America is the largest creator, producer, and exporter of copyrighted material.  In 2009, industry estimates that global piracy costs U.S. firms over $25 billion in lost sales annually.” 2010 International Piracy.  This loss in sales has caused a serious loss in revenue, jobs, and diluted the strength of brands and intellectual property.  It has also caused creators of these works to have less incentive to continue creating because their work is not being protected or recognized as their own.  It is estimated that over 18 million Americans work in intellectual property related industries; strengthening IP protection and repercussion to piracy is pivotal to their livelihoods.  Office of US Trade Representative.

The United States has a system in place called the Special 301 Report.  “The report measures the adequacy and effectiveness of U.S. trading partners’ protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). The Special 301 Report provides a means for the United States to communicate its concerns about the need to protect and enforce IPR.  .  Office of US Trade Representative.  Included in the report are a Priority Watch List and Watch List.   2010 Special 301 Report.  There has been no change to the countries on the Priority Watch List since 2009 except for Israel who has agreed to address several issues relating to pharmaceutical products.  However, the regular Watch List did see great improvements from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Saudi Arabia who are all making great efforts to improve their protection of intellectual property through implementing better policies within their countries and watching the illegal industry more closely.  Off the Watch List.

Two of the most notable countries on the Priority Watch List that have continued to pose a problem to the United States are China and Russia.  “China’s enforcement regime ‘remains largely ineffective and non-deterrent’.   US copyright industries ranging from software and movies to publishing to footwear “report severe losses due to piracy in China.”  China.  Their efforts to create more protection have not improved and are unacceptable according to current standards in the US necessary to protect copyrighted works.

Despite the continued infringement there have been international and US efforts to prevent further international infringement.  One notable international agreement is the Berne Convention which requires its signatories to recognize the copyright of works of authors from other signatory countries in the same way as it recognizes the copyright laws for its own citizens.  Berne Convention.  There are also 24 other treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that are designed to protect intellectual property rights internationally.  These treaties are helpful and effective but they have not been able to completely stop international infringement.

Many other countries are now putting in new effort into further protecting artistic works and other intellectual property created in their own country from being exploited abroad.  European, Japanese and American businesses  called for a strong agreement that “results in more effective enforcement of IP rights,” while strengthening the global economy, creating jobs and protecting consumers from dangerous products.  The country representatives identified intellectual property theft as a global problem.  ACTA.

In June 2010 the US specifically addressed this issue.  The US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator released a new strategy that the United States would be specifically taking to combat international piracy.  The strategy includes six categories:  1. lead by example specifically working to ensure that the US does not mistakenly purchase or use illegal products,  2. support transparency of laws and enforcement, 3. improve coordination and thereby increase efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement efforts at the Federal, state and local level, of personnel stationed overseas and of US international training efforts,  4. work with trading partners and within international organizations to better enforce American intellectual property rights in the global economy by initiating a comprehensive review of current efforts in support of U.S. businesses that have difficulty enforcing their intellectual property rights in overseas markets, with a particular focus on China, 5. secure the US supply chain by taking a close look at the unique problems posed by foreign-based websites and other entities that provide access to counterfeit or pirated products, and develop a coordinated and comprehensive plan to address them, and 6. Spend tax money wisely by continuing to collect and track the amount of money the government spends on intellectual property enforcement per year.  US Strategic Plan.  The Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus has placed specific emphasis on focusing their efforts to stop copyright piracy problems in Canada, China, Mexico, Russia and Spain because these countries make the Watch List regularly because of the scope and depth of their piracy problems.  The Caucus emphasized that artists need to be paid for their work and there must be much stronger efforts made against these countries.  2010 International Piracy.

While intellectual property piracy is still a problem and no government entity has been able to provide full protection there are some things a copyright owner can do to protect their works the best they can on their own.  Some suggestions include 1. copyrighting your work in your own country, 2. rely on formal treaties and copyright conventions, 3. place a copyright symbol on every page and document you produce, 4. be ready with a cease and desist letter if copyright infringement is noticed, and 5. keep a paper trail to be able to prove your copyright.  Copyright Protection.  There is no absolute solution to this problem but there continues to be an international effort to ensure that artists and creators can be fully protected around the world for the work they create.  Getting a strong law firm to help guide you through the copyright filing and enforcing procedures is key to getting the most out of your copyrighted materials.

by Angelica Campanaro, summer intern

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