RIAA Files Report Outlines Copyright and Market-Access Problems in 55 Countries

In cooperation with the International Intellectual Property Alliance, the Recording Industry Association of America filed a report in February with the United States Trade Representative outlining the problems that US record companies face conducting business in foreign marketplaces. The report highlights inadequacies in copyright protection with respect to standards and enforcement, and identifies major impediments to market access.

The RIAA commended the USTR for having identified Paraguay as a Priority Foreign Country last month, and recommended that Bulgaria be moved from the Priority Watch List and also be named a Priority Foreign Country. Both countries have continually failed to extend adequate copyright protection to intellectual property rights, despite the efforts of the industry and the US government to resolve the problems.

The report is filed in accordance with Special 301, a provision of US trade law requiring the US Trade Representative to identify countries that deny adequate protection of intellectual property or market access to intellectual property owners. For those countries designated as Priority Foreign Countries, the US government must begin discussions looking toward improved copyright protection. Those designated as priority countries face the potential loss of market access to the US for their exports.

"Today's filing continues a trend that has developed over the past few years in which our report focuses more on deficiencies in enforcement and less on copyright reform. While significant improvements in copyright legislation are necessary to prepare for the information age, basic copyright principles have now been introduced in nearly every country of the world," said Neil Turkewitz, Executive Vice President, International for the RIAA. "Effective enforcement has, however, not been as forthcoming, and many countries have not met their international obligations in this respect. We hope that today's report will serve as a wake-up call to these governments."

The association has pressed for immediate action in Bulgaria, where total estimated losses to the US sound-recording industry were $125 million in 1997. The bulk of the piracy problem is generated by five Bulgarian CD plants that produce and export pirate CDs, while the Bulgarian Government ignores this illegal activity. These CD plants are capable of producing more than 60 million discs a year, although the domestic market remains well under one million units.

In Paraguay, where estimated losses to the industry were $130 million last year, cassette piracy is rampant and CD piracy has been growing at an alarming rate. Increasing amounts of pirate CDs, imported primarily from Asia and then exported to Brazil and Argentina, are confiscated on a regular basis.

In the Priority Practices section, Mexico and Canada are cited for not meeting obligations under NAFTA. According to Turkewitz, indictments and sentences are not being issued by the Mexican courts, and the country is failing to meet its enforcement obligations. Last year, Canada adopted copyright legislation that discriminates against US recording artists and record companies. In addition, the RIAA also highlights problems RIAA member companies face in Australia, where the Australian Government is attempting to pass a bill that would deny US record companies the ability to prohibit the unauthorized importation of sound recordings. The ability to control such unauthorized distribution is a critical element of adequate copyright protection.

The RIAA is a trade association whose members create, manufacture, and/or distribute approximately 90% of all legitimate sound recordings produced and sold in the United States.