The U.S. Trade Representative's office released its annual Special 301 report today, which targets countries that are failing to meet certain standards for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. Joining China and Russia on the priority watch list are Argentina, Chile, Egypt, India, Israel, Lebanon, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela.

The report is used as a policy tool to pinpoint problems in specific territories as the trade in pirated and counterfeit goods continues to expand globally. It is also used as a basis for discussions with the United States' trading partners who are on the priority watch list or the watch list.

Countries on the priority watch list do not provide an adequate level of IPR protection or enforcement, or market access for persons relying on intellectual property protection. They will be the subject of particularly intense engagement by the USTR through bilateral discussion during the coming year.

The RIAA had recommended elevation of Canada to the priority watch list, but
the country remains on the lower-level watch list. "For too long, Canada's laws and enforcement practices have been out of step with international standards and have threatened the vitality of Canada's creative sector," said Neil Turkewitz, RIAA executive VP, international, in a statement. "We hope that the Canadian government will move swiftly to expand economic opportunities in the cultural sector by introducing and enforcing appropriate norms and that we will not find ourselves in the position next year of once again calling for Canada's elevation to the priority watch list."

In addition to the annual review, the USTR on occasion conducts "out-of-cycle reviews" in countries where there is a particular concern over poor IPR protection. The USTR announced today (April 30) that there will be out-of-cycle reviews for Russia, Brazil, the Czech Republic and Pakistan.

"Innovation is the lifeblood of a dynamic economy here in the United States, and around the world," said USTR Susan Schwab in a statement. "We must defend ideas, inventions and creativity from rip off artists and thieves. This report underscores the Administration's scrutiny in pinpointing challenges in protecting IPR and signals to our trading partners that effective IPR protection will remain a critical focus in U.S. policy."

In total, 43 countries are on the priority watch list, the watch list or the monitoring list. Thirty countries are on the watch list, which means they merit bilateral attention to address the underlying IPR problems. They are: Belarus, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Korea, Kuwait, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. Paraguay continues to stay on the monitoring list.

"We are grateful to Ambassador Schwab and the dedicated staff at USTR for
their continuing efforts to achieve improved intellectual property protection and enforcement in global markets -- steps that are essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness in the 21st century," said Turkewitz. "The work done by USTR and other government agencies plays a critical role in ensuring that the music community can continue to create and innovate, bringing original content to audiences around the world. Unfortunately, despite this work, conditions in far too many countries work against the ability to invest in the creation and distribution of original recordings, thereby undermining economic progress and cultural diversity."