Congress encourages Prez to make good on promises

WASHINGTON — More than two dozen Democratic and Republican members of Congress have sent a letter urging President Bush to pressure Russia at the upcoming G-8 summit to make good on previous promises to crack down on piracy.

“To ensure that the issue of copyright piracy receives more than a mere rhetorical response from the Russian government, we urge you to communicate to President Putin a set of objective benchmarks that must be met to satisfy U.S. requirements regarding the protection of copyrights,” the pols said.

They call for Bush to impress upon Putin the immediate need to enact and enforce optical media law, place selected illicit disc-manufacturing plants under 24-hour surveillance and take down pirate Web sites inside the country, along with several other measures.

Reps. Diane E. Watson (D-Calif.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) initiated the letter, which was also signed by 26 other members, including Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), Tom Lantos ( D-Calif.), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.).

In a separate statement, Issa added, “The Russian government has allowed these (illegal copying) operations to flourish within their borders for too long. If President Putin hopes to gain Russian entry into the World Trade Organization, then he must immediately and seriously crack down on this illegal industry.”

Recently described by Intl. Intellectual Property Assn. president Eric Smith as “the largest unregulated and unenforced producer of pirate optical disc product in the world,” Russia has earned a reputation as a haven for pirate operations often run by organized criminal gangs. Illicit disc factories, which have doubled to 34 in the past three years, are responsible for flooding Europe with mass bootlegs of movies, videos and albums.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America and Recording Industry Assn. of America also sent a letter to Bush advocating the same measures. In their joint missive, respective toppers Dan Glickman and Mitch Bainwol wrote, “We urge you to use the upcoming meeting to press Russia to immediately tackle this problem.”

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