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Shot across the bow

U.S. takes aim at Ukraine for proliferation of piracy

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration on Tuesday announced it was taking the unusual step of imposing economic sanctions against Ukraine for failing to stamp out the globe’s most lucrative and far-reaching black market for pirated music.

Specifically, the U.S. has suspended a special, duty-free status enjoyed by some Ukrainian products under an international trade program designed to foster economic relationships with other countries.

“The United States is moving forcefully to protect our rights and, if necessary, we will impose (other) trade sanctions,” U.S. trade rep Robert Zoellick said.

Only four or five countries have been punished similarly in the last 15 years.

This past spring, Zoellick gave a final warning to Ukraine’s government that the United States would impose certain punishment if the situation hadn’t improved in six months.

That deadline came and went, with no satisfaction to Zoellick and other trade officials.

The Recording Industry Assn. of America estimates Ukraine is the world’s largest producer and exporter of pirated CDs, disrupting markets in Eastern Europe and beyond — and costing the U.S. recording industry $200 million annually.

“Ukraine’s failure to guard against the manufacture, distribution and export of pirate recordings continues to significantly prejudice the interests of the U.S. music industry and has had a devastating toll on Ukrainian record companies, performers, songwriters, composers and musicians,” RIAA veep for international affairs Neil Turkewitz said.

Pirated movies also are a problem in Ukraine, though to a lesser degrees.

Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Jack Valenti praised Zoellick’s checkmate move.

“Ukraine cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of the U.S. trade program while at the same time robbing American copyright owners,” Valenti said. “This action serves as a clear signal that nations trading with the U.S. must respect copyrights.”

Zoellick’s office said the sanctions would be lifted once the Ukrainian government follows through on its promise to crack down on pirates. If not, the U.S. could impose other trade sanctions.

The suspension of the special, duty-free status will take effect later this month.

“Pirating U.S. intellectual property cheats Americans — it’s wrong,” Zoellick said. “Such intellectual property piracy also hurts Ukraine and cheats their own creative artists. (The Ukraine government’s) inaction undermines investment opportunities and weakens innovation, creativity and technology in the marketplace.”

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