(Daily Star, The (Beirut, Lebanon) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 22--BEIRUT -- The International Intellectual Property Alliance asked the United States Trade Representative to keep Lebanon on the Watch List for the ineffective and inadequate protection of intellectual property rights, and for severe copyright problems.
The IIPA is an organization representing more than 3,200 companies that produce and distribute copyright-protected material throughout the world.
The IIPA's report is in line with criticisms from other international software organizations that constantly but fruitlessly complain about the Lebanese government's failure to crack down on rampant copyright violations.
Lebanon has received numerous warnings from the United States and European Union that if it does not combat intellectual property violations, it will have no chance of joining the World Trade Organization.
The Economy and Trade Ministry, which created a copyright department years ago, has managed to seize some quantities of pirated software smuggled through the airport and ports. However, it has failed to raid hundreds of shops across the country that reproduce and sell the goods.
The alliance's request is part of its overall recommendations to the U.S. authorities in the annual "Special 301" review of copyright piracy and market access problems in 48 countries.
Lebanon is one of 25 countries recommended for the Watch List, along with Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates from the region, as reported by Lebanon This Week, the economic publication of the Byblos Bank Group.
The IIPA indicated that Lebanese authorities had made incremental progress in copyright protection. It noted, however, that it was premature to remove Lebanon from the "Special 301" list, given the importance of establishing a proper legal framework for copyright protection and fully implementing Lebanese laws to reduce piracy and foster growth in the country's creative sectors. It added that some in the government had questioned whether they should take IPR enforcement actions against small businesses, which constitutes another factor against removing Lebanon from the list.
The IIPA stated that piracy remained a significant obstacle to legitimate business in Lebanon despite the authorities' incremental progress in fighting such activity.
It cited problems like end-user piracy of business software that continues to cause enormous losses to software companies; book piracy in the form of illegal photocopying on and around university campuses; the export of pirated books to Gulf countries; retail piracy of all kinds of copyright materials such as movies, music and entertainment software; cable and pay TV piracy; growing Internet-based and mobile device piracy; hard-disk loading of software onto computers at points of sale; and the sale of circumvention devices such as pay TV decoders.
It pointed out that Lebanese courts continue to be a weak link in enforcing intellectual property rights as court processes, from prosecutorial preparation to judicial process, do not deter further infringements or provide adequate compensation against piracy.
The IIPA also said the Lebanese government uses unlicensed software on its equipment. It noted that the government needs to lead by example in protecting IPRs and in ensuring that its own software usage is licensed. It added that authorities had to take the lead in driving local education, awareness and enforcement to combat software piracy in the country.
It pointed out that intellectual property rights are important to Lebanon's economy and would contribute even more to growth if the laws were more effectively enforced.
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