IIPA expresses Russia piracy concerns to US Trade Representative

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In the preparation of its annual report to Congress on Russia’s implementation of its obligations as a Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) of the Office of the US Trade Representative requested public comments in August for submission by September 21, in advance of a virtual public hearing on October 4, 2022.

According to the IIPA filing, comments relate to “Russia’s copyright law and enforcement obligations under the WTO Agreement on Trade- Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) (Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, Annex 1C (Apr. 15, 1994)), as well as on related market access issues.”

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Concern over state-sanctioned theft

IIPA is concerned over recent reports that the Government of Russia is drafting legislation that would drastically undermine exclusive rights if enacted, allowing a Russian licensee of a copyrighted work to get (Russian) court permission to exploit a copyrighted work if a partner from an “unfriendly state” (including the United States) “partially or completely unilaterally repudiated the license agreement on grounds not related to the violation of such a contract by the licensee,” in clear violation of Russia’s WTO obligations.

Call for action

The filing further contends that the copyright industries have two main priority actions for Russia, which are a result of either legal or enforcement deficiencies, or both, related to Russia’s TRIPS Agreement obligations:

(1) Russia should make significant improvements in copyright enforcement against:

(a) physical piracy and especially digital piracy, which affects all of the copyright industries represented by the IIPA—the recording, motion picture, book and journal publishing, and entertainment software industries; and

(b) camcording of motion pictures in Russian theaters, which currently results in illegal online and hard copies of films being widely available without authorization; and

(2) Russia should address deficiencies in the collective management of rights in Russia.

Remedies are insufficient in Russia

The TRIPS Agreement requires that “Members shall ensure that enforcement procedures . . . are available under their law so as to permit effective action against any act of infringement of intellectual property rights . . . including expeditious remedies to prevent infringements and remedies which constitute a deterrent to further infringements.”

The existing remedies and enforcement actions under Russian law, including the civil, administrative, and criminal provisions taken as a whole, do not provide the kind of “expeditious,” “effective,” or “deterrent” remedies required by Article 41 of the TRIPS Agreement.

Further details

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) submitted comments to the process on Sept. 20, which included comments it also submitted to the US Trade Representative’s 2022 Special 301 report, released in April.

The full IIPA filing can be found at regulations.gov, Docket USTR 2022-0011

Why it matters

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, most of the Media & Entertainment industry has halted the distribution of theatrical and TV releases into the county.  As a result, Russia effectively legalized piracy in an effort to keep its population entertained.

IIPA represents powerful interests in the journalism, media and entertainment industries. Its members include the Association of American Publishers, the Entertainment Software Association, the Independent Film & Television Alliance, the Motion Picture Association, and the Recording Industry Association of America. According to the organization, IIPA’s five member associations represent over 3,200 U.S. companies producing and distributing copyrightable content.

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