17 December 2012

Africa: U.S. Lists 'Notorious Markets' of Stolen, Counterfeit Goods

Washington — There is good news and bad news in the global battle against marketplaces that offer stolen and counterfeit goods, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) says.

USTR Ron Kirk on December 13 announced the results of the Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets. The review lists more than 30 Internet and physical markets that exemplify marketplaces that deal in infringing goods and services, supporting global piracy and counterfeiting.

The review also identifies examples of marketplaces that have been the subject of enforcement actions connected with counterfeiting and piracy, or that may merit further investigation for possible intellectual property rights (IPR) infringements.

But the review also reflects the removal of eight previously listed markets due to law enforcement actions against those markets, or significant voluntary actions by market operators aimed at addressing problems, USTR said.

"We highlight the notorious markets that have a negative impact on legitimate businesses and industries of all sizes that rely on intellectual property to protect their goods and services," Kirk said. "I applaud the actions that some markets have taken to begin ridding their virtual and physical marketplaces of pirated and counterfeit goods, as well as enforcement actions taken by certain governments that have resulted in the shutdown of several other markets. "

The Notorious Markets Review identifies particularly infamous markets; it isn't an exhaustive list of all notorious markets around the world, USTR said. Inclusion in the Notorious Markets List does not reflect a finding of a violation of law. Nor does it reflect the United States government's analysis of the general IPR protection and enforcement climate in the country concerned; such analysis is contained in the annual Special 301 Report issued at the end of April. However, USTR said, it urges the responsible authorities to intensify efforts to combat piracy and counterfeiting in these and similar markets, and to use the information contained in the Notorious Markets Review to pursue legal actions where appropriate.

POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS

The 2012 list highlights positive developments since the issuance of the previous Notorious Markets Review in December 2011. For example, Chinese website Taobao has worked with rights holders to significantly decrease the listing of infringing products for sale through its website, and has committed to continue working to streamline its complaint procedures to further reduce listings of counterfeit products. Similarly, USTR said, Chinese website Sogou has been removed from the new list "based on reports that it has also made notable efforts to work with rights holders to address the availability of infringing content on its site."

USTR said the Philippine government has taken significant enforcement actions at the Quiapo Shopping District that has reduced the number of counterfeit and pirated goods available for sale there.

In January 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice filed criminal copyright charges against defendants associated with the website MegaUpload, the cyberlocker site that actively promoted the unauthorized distribution of protected content through subscriptions and reward schemes for frequent uploaders. As a result of these actions, USTR said, several cyberlockers in the past year have changed their business models to reduce or eliminate piracy. Others, such as btjunkie, also included in last year's list, have shut down their operations completely, USTR said.

In addition, the Mexican government took action to shut down the operations of the previously listed Bit Torrent Tracker Demonoid. Both Modchip.ca and Consolesource, which were listed for involvement in the marketing of circumvention devices, have also reportedly been shut down before Canada implements its recently enacted Copyright Modernization Act, which includes new provisions against trafficking in circumvention devices. As a result of these actions, these sites are not included in this year's report.

BACKGROUND

USTR has identified notorious markets in the Special 301 Report since 2006. In 2010, USTR announced that it would begin to publish the Notorious Markets list separately from the Special 301 Report, to increase public awareness and guide related trade-enforcement actions. USTR published the first stand-alone Notorious Markets list in February 2011 and the second such report in December 2011.

The Notorious Markets Review document is available on the USTR website.

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