The growth of broadband technology has led to a deepening problem with copyright violations
Russia, China and India are hotbeds of piracy, and their disregard for copyright laws has landed them on the U.S. Trade Representative's annual list of the biggest intellectual-property offenders.
Also joining them as the worst of the bunch are Israel, Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela.
The survey argues that the problem of piracy is intensifying as the growth of broadband technology makes it easier for people across the globe to download and transmit movies, television shows and other copyrighted forms of entertainment.
To that end, the report said that online sales of counterfeit goods soon will surpass those by street vendors who offer pirated discs or products.
Beyond public embarrassment, the report has little practical impact. There are no sanctions or punishments attached to its findings. Rather the hope is that the governments in the various counties branded as offenders will strengthen their copyright laws.
The report examined 77 trading partners and found that 40 countries needed to have their piracy enforcement monitored.
“This year’s Special 301 Report is more significant than ever in light of recent U.S. Government data showing that [intellectual property] intensive industries support as many as 40 million American jobs and up to 60 percent of U.S. exports,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement. "When trading partners don’t protect [intellectual property rights], they threaten those critical jobs and exports."
Kirk did note that some of those countries that had been highlighted in last year's report for being negligent had been removed from the list. In particular, Spain and Malaysia were cited for creating new laws that cracked down on online piracy.
Even some of the countries that found themselves publicly shamed for a lax approach to enforcement received measured praise. Russia was lauded for creating an intellectual property rights court that will be operational in 2013, and China was commended for making political officials more accountable for their enforcement of copyright rules.
The Motion Picture Association of America, which failed in its recent efforts to see stricter laws in the United States passed that would punish foreign sites that trade pirated materials, praised the report.
“This report highlights content theft and barriers in foreign markets that pose threats to the continued growth of U.S. creative industries and the U.S. economy," MPAA Chairman and CEO Chris Dodd said in a statement. "Strong copyright protection and enforcement are vital to our industry’s ability to create U.S. jobs, grow our own economy, and expand U.S. exports.”
It is not clear that the U.S. government has any appetite for any new legislation to help with that effort given the bruising debate that killed the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), both of which contained provisions dealing with foreign websites that distribute illegal copies of films or TV shows. Just a few months ago, technology companies like Google and Facebook rallied popular support to their side by claiming that the legislation infringed upon free speech rights.
In a meeting with press last week in Las Vegas at the theatrical exhibition trade show CinemaCon, Dodd acknowledged that SOPA and PIPA were "dead" and said that he now hoped that Hollywood and Silicon Valley could find a solution that would not need to be "memorialized" in law.
"We have the gift of time," Dodd said. "We can get people to start thinking about this without all the clamoring that was going on before."