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A coalition of U.S. software, movie and music producers has accused Canada of very lax intellectual property (IP) laws and enforcement and urged that it be placed on a U.S. government agency's "priority watch list."
The "priority watch list" maintained by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) features the names of countries that are believed to be persistent IP offenders. A U.S. government agency, the USTR is located in Geneva and Brussels.
The Washington-based International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) is lobbying to have Canada moved from another "lower priority" USTR list to the more serious "priority watch list."
Such a classification would place Canada in company with other so-called "IP evil doers" such as China and Russia – where piracy is believed to be rampant.
The IIPA justifies its demand on grounds that the Canadian government has failed to modernize its copyright laws and crackdown on software pirates.
"Canada has fallen far behind almost every other developed country in terms of modernizing and enforcing its copyright laws," says IIPA counsel Steve Metalitz.
The IIPA is a private sector coalition representing U.S. copyright-based industries and works to improve international protection of copyrighted materials.
Its lower-priority status on the USTR list hasn't prompted Canada to act decisively in curbing piracy, says Metalitz. "We hope [moving Canada to the priority list] sends the message to the Canadian government that this is a serious problem and they should take it seriously."
The IIPA says Canada's lax laws have made the country a have for makers of bootlegged movies, software and microchips – known as mod chips – that are used to bypass anti-piracy technology built into video game consoles.
According to the Alliance, as much as 25 per cent of bootlegged movies are made in Canada by way of unauthorized video-taping in movie theatres.
Bootlegged movies and mod chips are two areas where Canada exports piracy, says Metalitz. "That's always a concern. It's not just hurting its own market, it's also having an impact on other countries."
According to Metalitz, the most significant and immediate fallout of being on the list is the unflattering company Canada would keep with "countries that everyone knows are big copyright violators."
Subjecting Canada to trade sanctions could also be a possible repercussion, albeit further down the road, says Metalitz. "But we hope it would not come to that."
Every year, the IIPA submits recommendations to the USTR as part of a report that discusses copyright protection, enforcement and market access problems around the world. This year, it recommended 16 countries either remain or be placed on the priority watch list.