The United States and the Republic of Korea reached a free trade agreement yesterday that sets high-level standards for protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights. The agreement, not yet available to the public, also reportedly extends the term of copyright protection to the life of the author plus 70 years, in line with U.S. protection.

"Korean copyright legislation and enforcement practices -- particularly as they relate to Internet-based theft -- while recently improved, are still lacking," says Neil Turkewitz, RIAA executive VP, international. "Korea has among the highest rates of broadband penetration in the world, and unauthorized uploading and downloading are extremely problematic. With the interests of musicians, songwriters and record labels across the world on the line, we anxiously await Korean implementation of its obligations."

The Republic of Korea, commonly called South Korea, is the world's tenth largest economy, with a GDP of nearly $1 trillion. Korea is the United States' seventh largest goods trading partner, with two-way goods trade in 2006 valued at approximately $72 billion.

According to the latest figures available from the IFPI, the Republic of Korea ranked 29th in the world music market in 2005. Trade revenue from recorded music sales for that year was $89.2 million, following a steady annual decline from $231.1 million in 2001. The physical goods piracy level is estimated at 10%-24% of available product. About 23% of the available repertoire sold in the country is by international artists.

The free trade agreement, which the U.S. Trade Representative's office calls the most commercially significant trade agreement it has reached in over a decade, also expands market access for U.S. audiovisual products and expands investment opportunities in telecommunications and e-commerce.

According to the USTR, the agreement reached on April 1 ensures that U.S. investors in Korea will have the same rights, and enjoy equal footing with,
Korean investors. These rights will be backed by a stable, transparent legal framework.