Copyright piracy is a trade barrier which can be lowered
significantly in a relatively short period of time, in most cases,
by clear commitment from the responsible political officials and
enforcement authorities to take immediate action against large-scale
commercial pirates and to impose deterrent penalties on such
On January 1, 1996, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
entered into force for the U.S. and for all other WTO members that
do not qualify for, and take advantage of, the transition periods of
4 and 10 years.
Even for WTO members that did qualify for a transition period,
the national treatment and most-favored-nation provisions of TRIPS
applied as of January 1, 1996.
Now that January 1, 2000 deadline has passed and the transition
period for developing countries (LDCs) has expired, TRIPS
obligations (related to copyright) are in full effect (also meaning
that they are now subject to dispute settlement) for these
TRIPS obligations, both substantive ones and those on
enforcement, are legally recognized as the minimum standards of
protection and enforcement that must be afforded.
While a number of developed and developing countries have
responded by amending their copyright legislation, some still are
out of compliance with the substantive norms of TRIPS.
An even larger group of countries do not yet comply with the
TRIPS enforcement text.
There are now 153 WTO member nations and 29 observer nations.
The challenge remains to bring countries into compliance with the
enforcement norms in practice.
IIPA believes that the enforcement obligations in TRIPS provide
a comprehensive foundation for the development of civil,
administrative and criminal procedures and remedies necessary for
effective enforcement against copyright piracy.
Specific TRIPS obligations include critical enforcement tools
like ex parte searches, injunctive relief, damages, effective
border enforcement measures and deterrent criminal penalties.
In general terms, TRIPS requires an enforcement system that:
permits effective action against infringements;
provides expeditious remedies which constitute a deterrent;
is fair and equitable;
is not unnecessarily complicated or costly; and
does not entail any unreasonable time limits or unwarranted
TRIPS requires that member countries must apply their
criminal laws in cases of commercial piracy; it is not enough to
merely have laws on the books unless those
laws are used effectively. The U.S. copyright industries believe
that it is this aspect of TRIPS that will bring real commercial
benefits that were contemplated by the TRIPS negotiators.