The Ukrainian government has proposed tougher laws to rein in rampant copyright piracy and help get costly U.S. trade sanctions lifted, the government reported Tuesday. The proposed laws call for tougher licensing requirements, stiffer criminal penalties for violators, and broader authority for officials to inspect suspected producers of pirated compact discs, according to the Uryadovyi Kurier government newspaper.
Washington has accused Ukraine of failing to put an end to the production of millions of illegal CDs, which the U.S. record industry has estimated costs it some US$200 million each year.
In January 2002, the United States imposed trade sanctions on Ukrainian textiles, steel and other metals exports in connection with the pirate CD production. President Leonid Kuchma signed legislation last February aimed at regulating CD production and preventing copyright violations, but U.S. officials said the bill didn't go far enough.
Volodymyr Stetsenko, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Economy and European Integration expressed confidence that the proposed law would meet Washington's demands. "The standards incorporated in the draft law have been agreed on with American experts who deem it sufficient for combating piracy in Ukraine," the Interfax news agency quoted Stetsenko as saying.
It was not clear when the parliament would take up the proposal.
The announcement came as Minister of Economy and European Integration Valeriy Khoroshkovskyi was in Washington to discuss trade issues and seek support for Ukraine's bid for WTO membership. Ukraine also wants Washington to release some US$54 million in aid — approximately one-third of its total annual aid to Ukraine — which was suspended in October as part of a policy review.
Meanwhile, Stetsenko said Tuesday that U.S. trade sanctions had cost Ukrainian exporters some US$40 million in 2002, more than ten times less than was predicted when the sanctions were announced.
In April last year, the Bush administration singled out Ukraine as the worst offender in its annual review of how well other countries are protecting intellectual property rights.