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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia and China Top U.S. Piracy Watch List

WASHINGTON -- Russia, China and 10 other nations were targeted by the U.S. government Monday for failing to protect sufficiently U.S. producers of music, movies and other copyrighted material from widespread piracy.

The report said the United States would be closely watching to see how Russia fulfilled the commitments it made to upgrade copyright protection as part of a bilateral accord reached last year that was seen as a key milestone in the country's efforts to join the World Trade Organization.

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush placed the 12 countries on a "priority watch list," which will subject them to extra scrutiny and could eventually lead to economic sanctions if the administration decides to bring trade cases before the WTO.

An additional 31 countries were placed on lower-level monitoring lists, indicating that Washington's concerns about copyright violations in those nations did not warrant the highest level of scrutiny.

The designations occurred in a report that the administration is required to provide Congress each year highlighting problems that U.S. companies are facing around the world with copyright infringement, which they contend is costing them billions of dollars in lost sales annually.

"We must defend ideas, inventions and creativity from rip-off artists and thieves," U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a statement accompanying this year's report.

The administration announced in April that it was filing two new trade cases against China before the WTO. One of those cases charged that China was lax in enforcing its laws on protecting U.S. copyrights and patents.

The annual report, known as a "Special 301 Report," for the section of U.S. trade law that it covers, said China had a special stake in upgrading its protection of intellectual property rights, given that its companies would be threatened by rampant copyright infringement as they increased their own innovation.

In addition to Russia and China, the 10 countries placed on the priority watch list were Argentina, Chile, Egypt, India, Israel, Lebanon, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela.

In elevating Thailand to the priority watch list, the administration said it was concerned by a range of issues, including a "deteriorating protection for patents and copyrights."

Thailand is currently in a dispute with international drug companies, including U.S.-based Abbott Laboratories, over the cost of drugs to fight AIDS and other diseases.

Neil Turkewitz, an executive with the Recording Industry Association of America, said the administration was right to single out Russia and China for special criticism in the report.

He said large-scale piracy of sound recordings was continuing unabated in China and that Russia was home to some of the biggest criminal enterprises involved in piracy of music as well as "some of the world's most notorious pirate web sites such as Allofmp3.com."

Dan Glickman, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, said the report indicated "the scope of global piracy and serves as a sobering reminder of the challenges ahead."