By David Cass
Five Arab nations are on the latest version of a list that identifies countries where intellectual copyright infringement is a problem.
The UAE has been removed from the US Special 301 Watch List. The list reviews the levels of piracy each year in categories covering IT software, video and audio, but it was commitments given over the protection of medicine copyrights that led to the UAE being removed.In removing the UAE from the list, the US Trade Representative Robert Zeollick said, “Late in March, the UAE made written commitments to provide comprehensive protection for US pharmaceuticals including extending data exclusivity protection, providing joint review by health and finance ministry officials and allowing US review of draft patent law for TRIPS compliance.”The UAE has been making inroads into copyright protection for several years now and has been particularly successful in the audio/visual fields. The country was recently held up as an example by Showtime’s president Peter Einstein at a conference in Lebanon. At that time he described intellectual piracy as “the greatest single threat to the survival of creative enterprises.”The Business Software Alliance, which is the association of major software developers in the USA, says software piracy rates have halved in the UAE from 86% in 1994 to around the 40% mark today, with the most rapid period of reform coming over the past two years. The Middle East average is 85%.Five Arab countries are still considered, however, to be ‘pirate nations’. They are Egypt and Lebanon, which are on the priority watch list, while Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are on the lower-priority ‘general watch list’.Qatar had been removed from the list last year, but has seen an upsurge in piracy which now has it back on the general list.“Qatar has drafted amendments but has not yet signed and implemented the necessary legislation,” Zoelick said. “Therefore, Qatar is being placed on the Watch List this year.”Top of the 51 nations on the piracy list of shame this year is Ukraine.