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Monday, February 25, 2002

Internet music piracy pact gets into swing

A GROUNDBREAKING 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 in Geneva on February 21.

Over five years after the treaty was signed, the needed 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 Organisation (WIPO) said.

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

It formally takes effect on May 20.


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 into line with the digital age," the WIPO said in a statement.

The IFPI, the record industry association, welcomed the news, saying that the treaty would "benefit all record companies globally-independent and major record labels, in developing and developed countries."

"It strengthens our industry's protection from piracy on the Internet and it provides the foundation needed for the music industry in every country to introduce new online delivery services," it added.

There are no consensus figures for the cost to the music industry of Internet piracy. But the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), a US pressure group, calculated that US industry lost $2 billion in 2001, up from $1.8 billion the year before, from copyright piracy of music and records.

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," the 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 USA 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. Reuters