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U.S. eyes China, Russia, 44 others over piracy

In annual report, Bush administration singles out "priority" and "lower level" trading partners who allegedly aren't doing enough to stop intellectual property infringement.

The Bush administration on Friday again singled out China, Russia, and seven other countries for allegedly not doing enough to stop piracy and counterfeiting on their turf.

In its annual report (PDF), the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative named nine trading partners to its "priority" watch list and 36 others to its lower-level watch list. Paraguay is also being monitored in a separate category, bringing the total up to 46 countries.

Aside from China and Russia, which were highlighted as areas of particular concern, the priority list also contains Argentina, Chile, India, Israel, Pakistan, Thailand, and Venezuela, which were all on there in last year's report. The lower-level list includes representation from virtually every continent, ranging from Canada and Mexico to Italy to Kuwait.

"Pirates and counterfeiters don't just steal ideas; they steal jobs, and too often they threaten our health and safety," U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a statement. "The administration has been committed to stepping up the fight against IPR infringers who seek to profit from American artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs."

The report did note some "improvements," downgrading Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, and Ukraine to the lower-level list and removing Belize and Lithuania entirely. Colombia and Korea remain on the lower-level watch list, but the Bush administration said it's hopeful that intellectual property protection obligations under newly inked free trade agreements will lead to more improvements.

In a statement, the Bush administration said it would continue to press the governments of those countries for more rigorous intellectual property protection and remain particularly focused on unauthorized copying of CDs and DVDs.

Groups representing copyright holders were quick to praise the Bush administration's plans to step up its vigilance.

"Enforcing the intellectual property rights of creators--large and small--on a global scale is daunting but is also critical for a strong and vibrant U.S. economy," said Patrick Ross, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, which represents a few dozen companies and industry groups, including the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Business Software Alliance.