Will There Be Russian Punishment For Copyright Crimes?

Russia faces no shortage of obstacles in its conversion to a free-market economy. Add to those hurdles an absence of laws that effectively protect intellectual property. That means Russian and Western authors, performers, and software developers can't stop others from making free copies of their work. The Business Software Alliance (BSA), a U.S.-based antipiracy group, estimates that about 95% of American software used in Russia is illegally copied. To reduce such piracy, the Intellectual Property Task Force, comprising Russians and Americans, has been working on a new law for the past two years.

The task force agreed on legislation at a recent symposium attended by U.S. Ambassador Robert S. Strauss and Russian Acting Prime Minister Yegor T. Gaidar. The copyright measure was introduced into Russia's Supreme Soviet in November. The U.S.-Russian Trade Agreement says the proposal must become law by Dec. 31. But that deadline might slip by, says a BSA spokeswoman. Even with the new law, she adds, enforcement will be impractical without a public-education campaign to convince Russians that software is not free.

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