Solons say U.S. copyright-based biz lost over $330 mil in 2001

A bipartisan coalition of U.S. senators has sent a letter to Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian warning that American media companies could shutter their regional headquarters if the Taiwanese government doesn’t take certain steps to crack down on rampant movie and music piracy.

By remaining passive, Taiwan also could jeopardize its membership in the World Trade Organization, the pols said.

Among those signing the Oct. 28 letter were Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee; Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), chair of the foreign relations panel; and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Finance Committee.

The solons say U.S. copyright-based industries lost more than $330 million to piracy in Taiwan last year alone.

“It is taking money out of the hands of Taiwan and American artists, cinema houses and video stores,” the senators wrote.

Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy Jack Valenti said Taiwan, as a member of the WTO, must send a strong signal that such illegal activity won’t be tolerated.

“Piracy has not only harmed the U.S. copyright industries, but if it’s allowed to continue unchecked, it will have a disastrous effect on Taiwan’s economy and the livelihood of her artists,” Valenti said.

In their letter, the senators said one statistic shows that the market for legal music has declined by 50% over the past two years.

The salons want Chen to do the following:

  • Make copyright piracy a “public offense,” which would encourage law-enforcement authorities to pursue violators.

  • Lengthen the term of copyright protection.

  • Define what is “commercial-scale” piracy and establish a threshold for criminal and civil penalties.
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