Congressional Anti-Piracy Caucus Calls for Strong International IP Protection

The Congressional Anti-Piracy Caucus released the 2011 edition of its watch list on Thursday, identifying some significant U.S. trading partners as sources of concern due to weak copyright laws and inconsistent enforcement.

Industries which rely upon intellectual property, such as the pharmaceutical, technology and entertainment sectors, have consistently advocated for more aggressive government action to ensure the international protection of copyrights. “The American creative community can only remain strong if intellectual property rights are recognized and enforced worldwide” said a spokesperson for the Copyright Alliance, an advocacy group representing the creative industries, adding that sites which provide pirated content “are undercutting American creators, American jobs and the American economy.”

These ongoing deficiencies in intellectual property enforcement are further documented in the 2011 International Property Rights Index. All of the countries cited by Congress on Thursday are the subject of similar commentary in the index.

While Canada scores well overall in the index, it notes that Canada has not brought its copyright laws into line with the WIPO Internet Treaties. Canadian efforts to bring Copyright laws into compliance with these treaties have been stalled for more than half a decade. In addition to problems with internet treaty compliance, Canada significantly limits the ability of customs officials to prevent pirated material from entering the country. For these reasons Canada was also on the Special 301 Watch List last year.

Spain has also seen significant decline in the Index, with its overall score dropping by 0.3 points. Spain’s specific intellectual property score similarly declined by 0.3 points. Spain has taken recent measures to allow the removal of infringing material from web sites, but enforcement of these new laws remains problematic.

Russia faces severe problems in protecting intellectual property. Russia has for some time been a major location for infringing Bit Torrent sites. While Russia has recently passed several useful intellectual property protection laws, law enforcement still lacks the power to take down infringing content after notice, a restriction which continues to inhibit enforcement. While Russia’s scores in intellectual property protection in the IPRI report have risen substantially, Russia still ranks a poor 93rd overall in property protection.

While Congress is in the process of taking action on these issues in the form of the PROTECT IP Act, cooperation with trading partners is essential in a globalized economy to ensure that international intellectual property treaties are respected and that the creators of knowledge continue to be compensated for their work. Urging other states to improve their IP protection practices is a critical part of this effort.