When it comes to the protection of intellectual property, it’s well known that the United States is almost continually unhappy with just about every other country’s regimes. A huge amount of lobbying is carried out on a continual basis by government and the private sector in the hope that one day everyone will adopt US-like approaches to rights enforcement.
One of the countries that presents particular challenges to the United States is old enemy Russia. Of course, relations have warmed somewhat in recent years and the world is a safer place as a result, but seeing eye to eye on infringement issues will take a while yet.
The United States feels that Russia needs to show more respect for U.S. intellectual property rights and has been openly critical, for example, of the state of the pirate movie and music scene there. However, perhaps what is less known is that Russia isn’t happy with U.S. efforts to protect its home grown products either.
According to a confidential diplomatic cable dated 13th November 2009, U.S. Russian embassy officials met with Ministry of Economic Development Deputy Minister Stanislav Voskresenskiy to discuss the upcoming United States/Russia IPR Working Group meeting, scheduled to take place in Washington, DC just a few days later.
Voskresenskiy told the meeting that Russia’s record on IPR enforcement had been on an upward trend in the previous 12 months. However, the cable notes that while Voskresenskiy said that pirated goods are now more difficult to buy, he admitted that since Russia’s record is so poor, “a positive trend was not difficult to accomplish.” Actual achievements, he added, would be presented at the Washington meeting.
What follows is an interesting take by Voskresenskiy on the current state of world IPR enforcement and a clear indication that the Russians do not believe that the problems lie exclusively with them.
“Voskresenskiy went on to state that, in his opinion, no country in the world is prepared to fight Internet piracy. He argued that all existing laws, including laws in the U.S., are antiquated and do not address new technological trends,” the cable reads.
“As an example, [Voskresenskiy] stated that YouTube and Google (as YouTube’s owner) should be shut down because they do not conform to current Russian IPR laws. He admitted that this was not feasible, but continued to emphasize that these entities need to follow local laws, even if the laws are outdated,” the cable adds.
But just as Hollywood and the music industry criticizes Russian piracy of U.S. products (the AllofMP3 controversy as just one small example), Russia’s Deputy Minister of Economic Development says that the United States needs to sharpen up too.
“Voskresenskiy also raised two issues [embassy officials] have heard from other sources: a) that Russian made movies are being pirated and sold in the U.S., cutting into Russian box-office sales, and b) that there are U.S.-based Internet sites selling pirated Russian movies for download,” notes the cable.
“Voskresenskiy stated that Russian delegation members to the Working Group are eager to discuss these issues with their U.S. counterparts.”
This and other cables reveal that the Russians believe U.S. / Russia discussions on intellectual property rights are “unbalanced”. However, the fact that the Russians are prepared to discuss the negative effects of piracy on their domestic rights holders is seen as a positive by embassy staff and actually present a great opportunity “to begin engaging the Russians on cooperative efforts to improve IPR protection.”
Rest assured though, the quid pro quo won’t include shutting down YouTube or Google. Hopefully the Russians won’t get any ideas about blocking “rogue sites” that don’t respect their local laws….