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'China, Russia worst pirates'

The congressional group also named Mexico, Canada, India and Malaysia as countries on its watch list.

india Updated: Apr 06, 2006 11:15 IST

A group of US legislators on Wednesday named China and Russia as the worst pirates of American movies, music and software and said Moscow should be denied World Trade Organization membership until it does more to end the theft.

China and Russia together were responsible for $4 billion in US business losses in 2005 due to illegal copies of copyrighted material, according to the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus, a bipartisan group.

Piracy has also cost the United States an estimated 150,000 jobs and $1 billion in lost tax revenue, said Sen Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat and member of the group.

"Piracy in these countries is largely the result of a lack of political will to confront the problem," the group said in a statement.

For Russia the stakes may be high. The Bush administration, in addition to demanding that Moscow crack down on rampant video and software piracy, also wants Russia to open its financial sector to foreign banks as part of WTO membership. Moscow cannot join the global trade club without the backing of all existing members such as the United States.

The group of US lawmakers said Moscow's proposed changes to intellectual property law are "moving Russia even farther away from WTO compliance."

Biden described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "dunce" for failing to protect intellectual property. Global leaders do not understand that "this also stymies their own abilities" to develop intellectual property-based economies, he said.

"As one who voted for WTO for China, I feel burned," said Sen. Gordon Smith, an Oregon Republican. "China had pledged to protect intellectual property. My own view on Russia is I'm not going to burned twice."

The caucus leaders from the House of Representatives, Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, and Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, introduced a nonbinding resolution on Wednesday urging the United States not to complete agreements leading to Russian WTO membership until Moscow enforces anti-piracy laws.

Many of the Russian facilities capable of producing pirated materials are on military-owned property, protecting them from international scrutiny, the lawmakers said. Russia is also home to "allofmp3.com," an Internet site the congressional group described as one of the world's largest online music pirates.

China, which was admitted to the WTO in 2001, was responsible for $2.3 billion in US piracy losses in 2005, the legislators said.

While Chinese authorities are raiding illegal production facilities, violators face relatively small penalties. The lawmakers urged Beijing to destroy production equipment and boost penalties.

The congressional group also named Mexico, Canada, India and Malaysia as countries on its watch list that must do more to stop violations of US copyrights.

Mexico was responsible for $1.2 billion in copyright losses last year, mainly through 50,000 street vendors selling pirated products, the group said.

The lawmakers generally praised cooperation from Mexican officials but said Mexico should try to shrink demand by emphasizing penalties to customers who purchase the illegal merchandise.

Canada is on the watch list due to "lax border measures" that let in pirated products from East Asia, Pakistan and Russia, the lawmakers said.