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U.S., Russia agree on 'action plan' to fight piracy

The two countries agree on a plan to curtail theft of intellectual property, after President Obama grants Russia "permanent normal trade relations" and the two nations agree to have the WTO's tenets apply between them.

The U.S. and Russia have agreed on an "action plan" to fight the theft of intellectual property, including online piracy of copyrighted materials.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative announced the agreement yesterday, saying that the plan's priorities include, quote:

"Combating copyright piracy over the Internet, including actions such as takedowns of infringing content, action against persons responsible for IPR [Intellectual Property Rights] crimes, coordination with rights holders, cooperation and information exchange between IPR enforcement officials, and devotion of resources and personnel to law enforcement agencies to combat piracy over the Internet.

"Enhancing IPR Enforcement, including actions against counterfeiting, piracy, and circumventing technological protection measures; imposing deterrent penalties and sentences; conducting raids; seizing and, where appropriate, destroying IPR infringing products and the equipment and materials used to produce such products; and promoting transparency and public awareness of IPR enforcement actions.

"Coordinating on Legislation and other Issues, including on Russia's draft legislation on liability for Internet service providers to combat Internet piracy, consulting on implementation of Russia's WTO pharmaceutical test data protection commitments, administrative penalties, and exchanging information on enforcement mechanisms and best practices for judges."

In the past, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative has maintained that Russia has done too little to protect U.S. intellectual property. Last year, the USTR issued a report on "Notorious Pirate Markets" and accused several Russia-based sites of profiting from intellectual-property theft.

Also last year, in a letter to Vice President Joe Biden prior to a visit by Biden to Russia, a group of U.S. congressmen urged him to use Russia's desired membership in the World Trade Organization as a bargaining chip.

"Addressing...rogue sites will go a long way toward demonstrating Russia's willingness and ability to operate under the rule of law and therefore its preparedness to take on the obligations of membership" in the WTO, the congressmen -- members of the Congressional International Antipiracy Caucus -- wrote at the time.

Russia joined the WTO this past August, and two days ago, after discussion about human rights issues, President Barack Obama granted "permanent normal trade relations" to Russia. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. and Russia filed letters with the WTO withdrawing their notices of nonapplication and agreeing to have the WTO Agreement apply between them.

"With this action, U.S. businesses and workers can now enjoy the full benefits of Russia's WTO membership," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said yesterday, in a statement about the U.S.-Russia handshake on the WTO tenets. "Having the WTO Agreement apply between us and Russia gives U.S. businesses and workers greater and more predictable access to the growing Russian market and gives us the tools to hold Russia accountable to its WTO obligations."

And Kirk made mention of the WTO in yesterday's separate announcement about the piracy agreement:

"This step is particularly important in light of Russia's recent membership in the World Trade Organization and the application of the WTO Agreement between us," he said. "Russia has made commendable progress in improving its IPR regime, and the Action Plan signals a commitment to maintain that momentum to address IPR priorities."

The action plan -- formally known as the "Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Action Plan" -- is available for perusal here.