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Russia and US set up copyright hotline

Law reform to help Russia's WTO bid

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The US and Russia will set up a copyright hotline so that information about copyright infringement can be swapped between the two nations. The US says that it will train Russia in how to battle copyright theft.

These are just two elements of the an emerging agreement between Russia and the US which Russia hopes will pave the way for its entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The US is thought to have blocked Russia's entry on several grounds, one of which was its record on copyright abuse.

Russia's copyright protection laws are weaker than those in the US and many European countries, as evidenced by the fact that controversial music website Allofmp3.com claims to operate legally in Russia but would be shut down by now in many other countries.

Russia has recently undertaken partial reform of its copyright laws in a bid to have the US back its entry into the WTO. It is the largest economy in the world not already a member of the body.

OUT-LAW has seen an agreement between the US and Russia which outlines action to be taken by Russia to comply with copyright protection in the US/European mould.

In the agreement, between US Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Russian Minister of Trade and Economic Development German Gref, Russia agrees to conduct surprise raids at any time of the day or night, to ban its military facilities from duplicating copyrighted material, and to investigate Russia-based web companies distributing copyright-protected music.

"I am pleased that we have concluded this important agreement in connection with Russia's WTO accession negotiations," said Schwab. "This is a strong and far-reaching commercial agreement that meets the high standards of President Bush’s market-opening trade agenda and moves Russia closer to full integration into the global, rules-based trading system."

Intellectual property rights have been seen as a major stumbling block to US support for Russia's entry into the WTO. The US is home to many of the world's major entertainment companies. Agricultural tariffs have also played a vital role in negotiations.

The deal was struck in time for US President George Bush's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting last week. "Today, Vladimir and I are pleased to report that after a long set of negotiations, Representative Gref and Ambassador Schwab have signed agreements that will be good for the United States and good for Russia – and that is we support Russia's accession into the WTO," said Bush at that meeting.

The agreement will also allow for the duty free importing into Russia of IT equipment such as computers and semiconductors, a major piece of tariff reform that will open up the Russian market for US manufacturers.

See: The agreement (6 page/309KB PDF) 

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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