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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Piracy Watchdog Picks Out Russia for Criticism

In the eyes of global business leaders, Russia is the "worst offender" against intellectual property rights after China, a global piracy watchdog said Monday in a report.

Multinational companies are quick to turn away from markets where counterfeiting laws are toothless and unpopular, said the International Chamber of Commerce report, which suggested that Russia's courtship of global business partners must therefore be suffering.

On every front -- from the state's unwillingness to meet international intellectual property standards to the local media's "disregard for the importance of combating piracy" -- the survey of 48 global firms found perceptions of Russia and China to be the worst by far.

"The singling out by a wide margin of China and Russia as countries with least favorable IP environments is consistent with other studies," the report said, citing a European Commission study in particular.

India, which took third in the list of 10 countries with the worst intellectual property environment, scored almost 2 1/2 times better than Russia.

Lax directives on piracy and counterfeiting have long strained Russia's relations with the West.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab has said rampant pirating of software was one of the main stumbling blocks to Russia's 13-year bid to join the World Trade Organization.

Two Russian businesses were at the center of the debate last fall -- music web site and drug company Bryntsalov-A, both of which were accused of selling bootleg goods amid a flurry of international condemnation. The drug firm was fined $1,500 and Russia refused to shutdown the web site.

It did, however, pledge to adopt an arsenal of laws against everything from phony medicine to pirated movies and music when it got U.S. blessing to join the WTO in October.

But Joseph Lampel, the chief investigator behind the survey, said the new laws were being perceived as just a way of stalling any serious crackdown.

"After 10 years or more of efforts to put in place legislative mechanisms, the time has come for enforcement," Lampel said by telephone from London.

In the closest thing to a Russian crackdown since the U.S. bilateral deal, Russia has gone after two software pirates: the head of a Moscow disc plant and a village schoolteacher who was discovered to be running unlicensed software on 12 classroom computers.

Both men could face five years in prison if convicted.

The survey comes on the eve of the Third Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy, which will start Tuesday in Geneva. A Chinese Supreme Court judge is set to address the convention. No Russians will be speaking.

In a side note, Lampel said Russia was the birthplace of large-scale piracy.

In 1908, a Russian businessman began selling unlicensed music "out the backdoor" of his phonograph cylinder plant. "Police raided his outfit and arrested him and he was sent to prison," Lampel said. "They did something about it then."