Internet Music Piracy Gets Into Swing

Feb 27, 2002 12:00 PM, Reuters


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GENEVA (Reuters) -- A ground-breaking international pact to protect musicians and the multi-billion dollar recording industry from Internet piracy will finally go into force in May, a United Nations agency announced on Thursday, February 21, 2002.

Over five years after the treaty was signed, the necessary number of ratifications for it to take effect was achieved on February 20, when Honduras became the 30th country formally to join, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said.

The treaty -- the WIPO Phonograms and Performances Treaty (WPPT) -- bars the unauthorized exploitation of recorded or live musical performances on the World Wide Web.

The international music industry regards the pact, which formally takes effect on May 20, as crucial to plans to develop online distribution of music.

"This treaty provides the first global copyright framework for record labels and performers in the digital era, and provides essential tools for the industry to do business in the online world," said Jay Berman, chairman of record industry association, IFPI.

There are no consensus figures for the cost to the music industry of Internet piracy.

But the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), a U.S. pressure group, calculated that U.S. industry lost $2 billion in 2001, up from $1.8 billion the year before, from copyright piracy of music and records.

Together with a sister pact on protecting the copyright of authors and publishers, due to come into force in March, the new treaty will bring "international copyright law in-line with the digital age," WIPO said in a statement.

The IFPI said that the treaty would "benefit all record companies globally -- independent and major record labels -- in developing and developed countries."

Under both treaties, countries guarantee the rights of "creators, performers and recording producers to control and/or be compensated for the various ways in which their work is used or enjoyed by others," WIPO said.

It noted that the music business pact would also give recording artists and record companies the right to use technology to prevent the unlicensed reproduction of their work on the Internet.

The United States was among the first states to ratify the pact, which only has the force of law in those countries that have adopted it.

Ratification in the European Union is taking longer because the bloc's 15 members all have to bring their domestic legislation into line. But this process is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

"Of course, we want all countries covered, but this is an important political statement," said Jorgen Blomqvist, director of WIPO's copyright law division.

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