04.11.2007 11:30 AM
U.S. escalates media piracy dispute with China

The controversy between the United States and China over the widespread pirating of American media assets escalated last week. The Bush administration said it filed formal trade complaints against China with the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The complaints charge that China has failed to stop the rampant piracy of American entertainment media and counterfeiting of American goods. “Inadequate protection of intellectual property rights in China costs U.S. firms and workers billions of dollars each year,” Susan Schwab, U.S. trade representative, said in a statement.

The White House, under pressure from Congress, said it would file two separate cases against China at the WTO aimed at forcing Beijing to make piracy a criminal offense.

The “Financial Times of London” said the twin cases were the most legally contentious ever filed by the United States against China because they seek to force politically sensitive changes to cultural laws and the judicial system. The effort to liberalize the media market, however, will meet serious resistance, the newspaper said, because the Chinese government sees the importation of foreign, and particularly Western culture, as a political rather than economic policy decision.

The American demands that China throw software and media entertainment pirates in jail rather than issue fines would also require changes to the criminal code. Gregory Rutchik, a lawyer who specializes in copyright violations, told the “Times” that legal victory was far from certain.

The formal complaints came as congressional anger over last year’s record $232 billion U.S. trade deficit with China hampered Bush administration efforts to win renewal of trade promotion authority.

Another U.S. complaint focuses on market access barriers that make it difficult for U.S. movie, music and publishing companies to offer legitimate products that could compete for sales with pirated goods.

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