Legal Efforts Starting To Stamp Out Piracy

Fewer Russians now buy pirated computer software and cheap bootleg alcohol, but pirated goods on sale in the country still make several billions of dollars per year for counterfeiters, the Higher School of Economics said in a report Thursday.

As a result of concerted efforts by rights holders and law enforcement agencies, the share of counterfeit products on sale has been cut sharply, the report said.

The Federal Customs Service apprehended 1,500 people trying to bring in counterfeit products in 2007, while over 10 million counterfeit products were seized, the report said.

Vadim Radayev, the report's lead researcher, said the government's efforts to join the World Trade Organization had played a role in making government agencies more proactive in fighting against counterfeiting.

But Radayev estimated that revenues from just pirated software and bootleg alcohol totaled 525 billion rubles ($22.2 billion) over the last five years.

While about 70 percent of CDs and DVDs on sale nationwide are still counterfeit, bootleg alcohol and fake brand-name clothes and footwear now account for just 30 percent of the market, down from 60 percent five years ago, the report said.

The government's trade and sanitary inspection watchdog has put the share of counterfeit goods on sale in the country at 30 percent to 40 percent.

The share of fake brand-name pharmaceuticals and perfumery has fallen to 15 percent, down from about 60 percent five years ago, while the percentage of fake brand-name tea, coffee and razor blades on sale has fallen to just 2 percent, the report said.

Under amendments to Part 4 of the Civil Code, which deals with intellectual property rights, the setting up of a special judicial department to handle such violations has helped to reduce the share of counterfeit goods on sale, Radayev said.

But there are still hurdles to overcome before Russia becomes "just like any other European country," he said.

For example, there is no legislation that specifies what to do with confiscated counterfeit products and who should compensate rights holders for intellectual property violations, he said.

Meanwhile, the sale of counterfeit products on the Internet remains largely unregulated, Radayev said.

Moves by Western manufacturers to bring production to Russia had helped to reduce piracy, said Alexei Popovichev, director of the Association of Branded Goods Manufacturers, or RusBrand.

Yury Mikhailichenko, secretary of the State Duma Committee on Economic Policy and Entrepreneurship, said that as well as passing legislation, the government needed to encourage big retailers selling good-quality products to open more stores across the country.

"They are the best way of controlling quality and authenticity," he said.