By Brooks Boliek
WASHINGTON (The Hollywood Reporter) --- The United States is telling Ukraine that it needs to crack down on CD and CD-ROM piracy or face trade sanctions.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoelick designated the former Soviet republic a "priority foreign country," which gives Kiev six months to straighten out its act, or face retaliation.
"For more than two years, the U.S. government has been urging the Ukrainian government to close down the pirates' CD production facilities currently exporting throughout Europe and enact legislation to adequately protect copyrighted works and sound recordings," Zoelick said in his annual report. "Despite many promises, including high-level commitments made in June 2000, the Ukrainian government has been unwilling or unable to curtail the activities of these pirates."
Ukraine remains the largest source of pirated optical media products in Central and Eastern Europe.
Copyright piracy in Ukraine is extensive and enforcement is severely lacking, resulting in increasing unauthorized production and export of CDs and CD-ROMs. Estimated losses to the U.S. music industry alone are $200 million a year, the report said.
"Unless they radically reform their practices to meet commitments made under the U.S.-Ukraine agreement and begin addressing the urgent needs of the world's intellectual property community, they are almost certain to meet with trade sanctions," said Neil Turkewitz, Recording Industry Association of America executive vp. "This may also all but eliminate any possibility for the Ukraine to become a member of the World Trade Organization in the near term."
Zoelick also issued a warning to Taiwan, elevating that country to the "priority watch list," a designation under which a country gets closer scrutiny. It's one step below being named a priority foreign country.
"We remain concerned that optical disc piracy continues to ravage our valuable assets around the world," MPAA chief Jack Valenti said. "The defeat of piracy in this digital age is of utmost importance, and the commitment and resolve of the U.S. government is essential in its dealings with international governments."