RIAA Turns Up Heat on IP Piracy in Russia

The recording industry group is lauding the Russian government's recent push to enact stronger copyright protection measures. With the country's membership in the WTO on the line, the RIAA says it believes it will begin seeing progress.

The Recording Industry of America Association is celebrating a moral victory in its worldwide crusade to stop music piracy, based on the U.S. governments demand that Russian authorities work harder to stem counterfeiting in their nation.

The RIAA issued a statement on Tuesday lauding the passage of a resolution last week by the U.S. Senate that asked Russia to work harder to fight piracy of music, software and other works of intellectual property protected by international copyright laws.

The measure was passed by the House of Representatives in November, and threatens to hinder Russias bid to enter the World Trade Organization if the country refuses to increase its efforts to halt piracy.

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Last Friday, the White House reported that President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone and discussed the ramifications of the Congressional request, among other things.

The presidents are reportedly close to completing negotiations for Russia to gain U.S. approval to enter the WTO, with current talks revolving around improving copyright protection and opening access to certain Russian markets for more U.S. businesses.

Officials with the Washington-based RIAA, which successfully pushed the U.S. government to crack down on digital piracy in the United States and pursue illegal file-sharing networks, praised the Senate measure for issuing a clear demand that Russian officials step up their efforts to prevent piracy.

Mitch Bainwol, chief executive of the RIAA, said that intellectual property enforcement has been "sorely lacking" in Russia up to this point, and contended that the United States shouldnt endorse trade agreements with countries that refuse to actively defend such assets.

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"The U.S.-Russia relationship must be built upon a mutual understanding of shared obligations and the application of the rule of law," Bainwol said in a statement. "This resolution is significant because it expresses the will of the U.S. Congress that Russia must take effective action against those who would steal Americas knowledge-intensive intellectual property-based goods and services."

As proof that music piracy remains rampant in Russia, the RIAA pointed to recent comments made by the nations Minister for Economic Development and Trade, German Gref, in which the official said that such counterfeiting may now constitute a larger business in his country than illegal drugs.

The RIAA is also trying to make its voice heard in Chinas bid to become part of WTO. In October, the group endorsed an effort by the Office of the USTR (United States Trade Representative) that asked officials in that country to more clearly outline a plan for reducing counterfeiting.

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