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March 14, 2013

Ukraine Named Among Worst Offenders for Piracy

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As we inch closer to the April 30 release date of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s annual Special 301 Report, which countries will have the notorious distinction of topping the Priority Watch List?

If you saw a recent report from the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), a coalition of trade associations representing over 3200 companies, you’d likely place your bet on Ukraine, which has recently risen to number one on IIPA’s list of countries hurting copyright-based businesses in the US. In a press release, IIPA recommended the USTR not only designate Ukraine as a Priority Foreign Country but also immediately suspend trade benefits.

Ukraine’s stunning failure to crack down on piracy supercedes even that of the most notorious usual suspects. Why? While the governments of China, India, and Russia at least acknowledge the problems and seek to implement solutions to combat piracy, Kiev appears to be complicit in the IP crimes. 

Radio Free Europe reports that within weeks of Ukrainian authorities shutting down one of the largest film piracy websites in the world, in which over 200 servers and 6,000 terabytes of data were seized, the same website was soon live again, suggesting that government officials could be turning a blind eye—even protecting—the piracy ring. 

Last year’s Special 301 report from the USTR also noted:

“The number of IP inspectors at the State Intellectual Property Service of Ukraine has been significantly reduced…Enforcement efforts remain ineffective against the widespread availability of counterfeit and pirated products, many of which are transshipped through Ukraine to third countries, and customs officials continue to lack ex officio authority to interdict shipments.”

And it doesn’t help that many of the government departments are overtly using pirated software in their operations.  

Suspending trade benefits may help serve as a wake up call to Kiev on the serious implications IP theft has to the creative economy and how much it hurts future innovators. Each year, copyright piracy costs the US economy $58 billion each year--- if it starts costing the Ukrainian economy, maybe then they’ll put a stop to it.

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