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 infringers.    

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 countries.  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 delays. 


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.



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