Russia Pledges Piracy Clampdown

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Russia's IT minister said his country will step up its work to fight intellectual property violations, part of an effort to boost foreign technology investment in Russia and gain admittance to the World Trade Organization.

Last month the International Intellectual Property Alliance named Russia as one of the world's worst offenders for violating U.S. software and music copyrights, second only to China.

During a press conference Thursday at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany, Leonid Reiman, the Russian minister for IT and communications, acknowledged the problem and said his country is stepping up its efforts to tackle piracy.

"I can assure you this is something very important that we are paying a lot of attention to, and we will continue working to solve the issue," he said, answering a question from a reporter.

Part of the effort involves legal reforms, he said. In December, President Vladimir Putin signed into law a "fourth part" to Russia's civil code that gathers together laws relating to intellectual property, with the goal of making them easier to enforce.

"The second part is enforcement, and this is being strengthened this year," Reiman said.

It's unclear how quickly the measures are taking effect. In January, Russia agreed to work with the U.S. to help shut down the online music store, which has been accused of piracy. However, the site appeared to be still operating this week. It is currently selling the new album from the group Arcade Fire for US$1.98, for example.

But Russia has made advances, such as closing down factories that produce blank CDs used for piracy, Reiman said. "It's an issue and we know that and we are trying to work on it," he said.

Russia's IT and communications (ITC) exports are growing fast, the minister said. They increased by about 20 percent last year to reach $2 billion, he said, and Russia expects them to increase to $10 billion by 2010, driven primarily by software and services.

The country hopes the technology exports will reduce its dependency on commodities such as coal and gas.

Russia also seeks more foreign ITC investments, which last year totalled $4 billion, Reiman said. His ministry has established a fund to kick-start investments in start-ups, he said. The fund will provide about €43 million ($56.8 million) of government money.

In addition, Russia will issue licenses for 3G (third-generation) mobile phone services this year, Reiman said, helping boost its technology growth.

Russia's prominent presence at Cebit is also designed to boost its technology standing. It has more than 150 exhibitors here, showing graphics software, security software and other products.

President Putin had been due to attend the show, according to Cebit organizers, but a spokeswoman with the Russian delegation said Thursday that he will not be attending.

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