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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 13:04 GMT
Ukraine backs CD piracy purge
Ukraine has become a leading source of pirate CDs
Ukraine has stepped up a drive to clampdown on compact disc counterfeiters, easing fears of US trade sanctions.

Ukraine's parliament, Rada, has approved the first reading of copyright protection laws.

The move comes six days before the US was sue to impose sanctions on $75m of Ukrainian imports in retaliation for CD, CD-rom and DVD piracy said to be rife in the country.

The US has also threatened to block Ukraine's application to join the World Trade Organisation if Kiev fails to protect copyrights.

But with Rada agreeing watered down regulations on CD production, it is as yet unclear whether the clampdown would prove sufficient to see-off the sanctions, which Ukraine has estimated would cost it $470m a year.

Cut price

Counterfeit CDs, CD-ROMs and DVDs produced in Ukraine are available throughout the country, as well as at some outlets in Russia, Eastern Europe and even the UK.

A pirated CD costs about $3 in Ukraine and Russia, one fifth of the average price in western Europe.

Optical media products such as CD-roms and DVDs are also believed to be copied illegally by fraudsters based in Ukraine.

Spurred by the threat of US sanctions, thought particularly damaging for the steel trade, Ukraine's government earlier this month proposed laws which would allow prosecutors, without a warrant, to raid CD production factories.

But the measures passed on Thursday would allow raids only after warrants, based on specific allegations, were obtained.

Political claims

Opponents, led by Communist Party deputies, to the more stringent measures have warned that allowing prosecutors too much power would harm Ukraine's nascent technology industry.

Others, including Socialist Party leader Oleksander Moroz, have said the US will anyway impose sanctions in an effort to protect its struggling steel industry.

But some political observers have suggested many members of the parliament oppose the law either because they are either deeply involved in counterfeit production, or hope US action would damage their business competitors.

With elections due on 31 March, it is also not certain how long many deputies will prove keen to disobey the president and the prime minister.

See also:

21 Dec 01 | Americas
US punishes Ukraine over piracy
07 Aug 01 | Business
US and Ukraine in piracy row
29 Jul 01 | Business
Software piracy on the rise
20 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Piracy problems stain Windows XP
06 Jun 01 | South Asia
Clamp down on computer piracy
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