China, Russia not included in partnership

The good news: The U.S. and some of its major trading partners have a treaty to improve global antipiracy efforts in the works.

The not-so-good news: So far, those partners do not include the two most notorious centers of international bootlegging, China and Russia.

U.S. trade representative Susan C. Schwab announced Tuesday that the Bush administration and some key trading partners are launching a collaborative effort against piracy that will focus on three main points — improving cooperation as well as establishing a code of best practices and strengthening the legal framework of intellectual property rights enforcement.

“Global counterfeiting and piracy steal billions of dollars from workers, artists and entrepreneurs each year and jeopardize the health and safety of citizens across the world,” Schwab said in a statement. “The United States looks forward to partnering with many of our key trading partners to combat this global problem. Today launches our joint efforts to confront counterfeiters and pirates across the global marketplace.”

Countries taking part in the negotiations include Canada, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Switzerland and the 27 member states of the European Union.

“The goal for now is to get like-minded countries together,” U.S. trade rep spokesman Sean Spicer told Daily Variety. “As it progresses we would welcome additional countries.”

The new treaty is intended to complement the existing Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual-Property Rights — the so-called TRIPS agreement established by the World Trade Organization.

“It will not involve any changes to the TRIPS agreement,” the USTR said. “Rather, the goal is to set a new, higher benchmark for enforcement that countries can join on a voluntary basis.”

Though no deadline is set for concluding the new treaty, Schwab said she hopes to produce an agreement as quickly as possible.

Many in the copyright industries hailed the announcement.

“The Intl. Intellectual Property Alliance and its members strongly support the leadership of the U.S. government, along with Japan, in commencing work on an agreement among like-minded countries seeking to improve potential signatory countries’ practical enforcement of their laws to deal with IPR infringements and crimes,” IIPA topper Erik H. Smith said in a statement.

“This agreement has real potential to improve the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in major markets around the world,” said Motion Picture Assn. of America chief exec Dan Glickman. “We think this agreement will help shift the international debate on intellectual property rights in favor of international cooperation and strong enforcement standards.”

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