Thailand joins China, India among worst copyright offenders
May 1, 2007 - 10:48:42 AM

Washington, May 1 - Thailand has joined China, India and nine other countries that top the US list of worst offenders of international copyright rules, the US government said.

The other countries are Russia, Egypt, Argentina, Chile, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela.

The annual Special 301 report, issued by the US Trade Representative's office Monday, placed the countries on a special 'priority watch list' that will be monitored to 'encourage and maintain' effective intellectual property rights protections.

Another 31 countries were put on lower levels of monitoring.

Only Thailand is new to the priority watch list this year, 'reflecting a concern that the past year has been characterised by an overall deterioration in the protection and enforcement' of copyright laws.

Presence on the list could eventually led to sanctions under World Trade Organisation - rules.

In India, piracy 'remains rampant' and its criminal enforcement 'remains weak,' the study said.

In China, an estimated 85 to 93 percent of all copyrighted material sold is thought to be pirated, the report said. Russian piracy sales have robbed US copyright holders of an estimated $2.1 billion in 2006.

Chile and Venezuela remain on the top priority list because of failure to make progress in enforcement and cooperation, and increasing levels of piracy.

Egypt has improved its systems, 'especially in modernising its infrastructure and training key personnel such as judges and civil inspectors'.

But Israel 'appears to have left unchanged its intellectual property regime'.

Turkey carried out an 'increased number of raids against copyright enforcment during 2006,' and Ukraine was 'no longer a major producer of pirated DVDs', the report said.

It pointed out that Thai officials have worked 'amid challenging circumstances' to enforce the law. But the efforts 'appear not to have had a measurable effect on piracy and counterfeiting rates'.

US trade officials singled out Thailand's lack of control over optical disc media -.

Piracy of trademarked products like footwear, books, business software, cable and signals were also cited.

According to the report, Thailand had insufficient penalties for violations, and there were indications of a further 'weakening of respect' for patents such as pharmaceutical products.

Although the US has gone along with patent exceptions for drugs under WTO accords, for example to treat HIV-AIDS, the study indicated 'serious concern' over Thailand's 'lack of transparency' on such issues.

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