An agreement by the European Community to expand trade ties with six former Communist countries could bolster international copyright conventions and anti-piracy efforts across the region.

Ministers of the community’s 12 member countries voted to open up their markets more to goods from Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic.

As these countries do not represent significant sources of audiovisual revenue, the agreement will not have a huge impact on Hollywood film producers or distributors, according to London-based KPMG Peat Marwick media analyst Simon Bazaljette.

He adds, however, that it represents “an important first step” toward opening up the region.

Bazaljette suggests one area that could benefit the entertainment community in general are efforts to combat piracy and copyright infringement. Philippe Kern, a senior adviser to International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, agrees. Says Kern, “Currently, the real copyright owner has no means of protection.”

EC copyright directives specifically forbid piracy, says Kern, and the trade agreements will obligate those countries to upgrade their legislation within a specific time frame.

He adds, “The main change will be to provide specific rights to producers. Producers can carry out anti-piracy campaigns, and the new territories will hopefully provide civil or criminal penalties.”

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