TAIWAN: Internet piracy a thorn in US-Taiwan ties, says IIPA

International Intellectual Property Alliance prompts United States to keep Taiwan on watch list for copyright violations

Taipei Times
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

By Charles Snyder

Efforts to resolve the long-standing feud between Taiwan and the US over piracy of movies, music, business software and other intellectual property is being thwarted by the rampant use of the Internet in Taiwan to steal copyrighted works, despite gains in other areas of piracy, an umbrella group of US industries reported on Monday.

Piracy over the Ministry of Education's Internet system is also a major problem, the report said.

The report, by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), urged the US Trade Representative (USTR) office to keep Taiwan on the Special 301 Watch List for the time being at least, until the Legislative Yuan passes more stringent anti-piracy laws and enforcement is enhanced.

The USTR has traditionally listened to the industry alliance for guidance on its official action under US piracy laws and has consistently followed its recommendations.

There is no indication that the USTR will not follow the alliance's recommendations again this spring, when the government agency issues its annual report on intellectual property violators.

While Taipei and Washington have been gradually solving other trade disputes, piracy has remained a major area of contention, and removal from the Watch List is seen as a crucial step in advancing bilateral efforts to normalize trade relations.

In one bright spot in the IIPA report, the alliance recommended that the USTR conduct an "out-of-cycle review" later in the year to reconsider whether or not to drop Taiwan from the Watch List. If it dropped Taiwan, that would represent a major trade victory for the nation.

Taiwan has been on the Watch List, or the more serious Priority Watch List, since 2001.

Internet piracy, the IIPA said, "has become a pervasive and corrosive piracy problem," and "one of Taiwan's most urgent piracy problems."

P2P piracy, or peer-to-peer sharing among Internet users, continues to grow, and the highest rate of Internet infringement of business software in Asia is in Taiwan, the alliance said.

"This will threaten what is otherwise a good record on reducing software piracy in the territory," it said.

The report urges the prompt passage of legislation to clamp down on file-sharing, followed by legislative action on "ISP liability" legislation that would penalize such Internet service providers as Yahoo.

P2P legislation, which was introduced last April by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang would "make illegal and subject to civil and criminal liability the provision of file sharing services with the intent to facilitate infringement," the IIPA report said.

It would also give authorities the power to close a service once it has been convicted, an effort to prevent cases where offending service providers were convicted but continued to operate with impunity during an appeal.

The ISP legislation, also introduced by Hsieh, would also "subject ISPs to liability as co-infringers if they 'gain economic benefits' and are 'capable of monitoring or controlling said infringing acts by others.'"

The IIPA report also focused, as it did last year, on piracy over the government-owned TANet network.

The network "is being used widely throughout Taiwan for Internet piracy," the report says, adding that the Ministry of Education "must acknowledge its obligation and take far stronger deterrent actions" to stem illegal file sharing.

Among other suggestions, the report calls for tougher enforcement against illegal photocopying in an around university campuses and monitoring of the smuggling of optical discs to Latin America and counterfeit video game cartridges to China and elsewhere in Asia.

The report also calls on the Legislative Yuan to pass a law against the illegal piracy of movies "right off the screen by professional camcorder pirates" using video cameras to copy a movie being shown in a theater, or even earlier during a promotional showing.