US asked to tighten laws to fight copyright piracy

A top US business lobby urged lawmakers Thursday to tighten laws to crack down on nations that infringed intellectual property rights.

The US Chamber of Commerce, which claims to represent over three million businesses, said it wanted Congress to enact legislation that would strengthen an annual government review of countries linked to copyright piracy.

The US Trade Representative (USTR) office places such countries on a blacklist, known as a “Priority Watch List,” as part of its annual “Special 301 Report” that scrutinizes global intellectual property rights protection and enforcement.

“Congress should enact legislation to improve the US Trade Representative’s ‘Special 301’ process by enhancing the tools available to the administration to engage more effectively with countries that fail to respect and enforce the rights of American innovators and/or live up to their international IP obligations,” the chamber said in a report.

The study, the “2010 Intellectual Property (IP) Agenda,” contains other suggestions to beef up the fight against copyright piracy and was sent to Congress and President Barack Obama.

“This legislation should require an action plan for Priority Watch List countries that includes clear benchmarks to measure performance, and meaningful consequences for nations that fail to perform,” the report suggested.

It urged the Obama administration to “engage key trading partners such as India and China in strengthening their protection and enforcement of IP rights, whether it is improving India’s patent law or working with Beijing to crack down on Internet piracy.”

In a letter to Obama, the chief of the chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center said intellectual property issues in a few countries were “harming America’s competitiveness and economic growth.”

“For example, India’s patent laws prevent many critical medicines from being patented, thereby discouraging the development of important new treatments and cures,” the center’s president, David Hirschmann, said in the letter.

“Internet piracy in and from China is also doing great harm to America’s creative industries.”

The US copyright industry estimates that 2008 losses linked to piracy were about 3.5 billion dollars for the music recording and software industries alone.

In its 2009 annual report, the USTR added Canada, Indonesia and Algeria to the Priority Watch List, along with countries such as China and Russia that were long branded copyright pirates.

America’s innovative and creative industries account for more than five trillion dollars of the US gross domestic product, drive more than half of US exports and employ over 18 million Americans, according to the chamber.



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