Greek piracy attacked

U.S. seeks hearing on unauthorized airing of films

WASHINGTON — The Clinton administration is asking to take Greece to an international trade court with a claim that Hellenic TV stations are regularly airing U.S. movies without authorization.

U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky announced Friday that her office would initiate “dispute settlement proceedings” with Greece through the World Trade Organization.

“Approximately 150 Greek TV stations continue to broadcast U.S. owned motion pictures and television programming without authorization and without any payment of complensation to U.S. copyright holders,” Barshefsky said.

Valenti hails move

The move was quickly hailed by Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy Jack Valenti. “For over 10 years, Greece has blatantly allowed its TV stations to steal from our member companies. It is a problem gone unabated,” said Valenti.

Greece has made some steps to curb the piracy, including shutting down 32 of the approximately 200 pirate stations operating in Greece. In addition to the action against Greece, the USTR put Italy on its “priority watch list.” During the last year Italy passed steep quotas on U.S. TV programming while pirates conducted approximately $220 million worth of business in U.S. copyrighted material.

Annual report card

Barshefsky’s announcement is an annual event in which the U.S. states for the record which countries it believes to be worthy of sanctions in international trade courts and which countries it believes need to be watched closely.

In the report, the USTR said it was also concerned about piracy in Bulgaria, Macau, Hong Kong and Mexico. For instance, the Recording Industry Assn. of America estimates that it lost approximately $125 million to Bulgarian copyright pirates in 1997. Because the Bulgarian government has taken some steps to discourage piracy, the USTR decided against taking stronger action against the country. “The RIAA will do everything in its power to help the Bulgarian government succeed in this initiative … and hopes that this issue will be resolved without resorting to the imposition of trade sanctions,” said RIAA’s Neil Turkewitz, exec VP, international.