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ME nations make piracy watch list

Failing to stop software piracy could mean economic sanctions for Lebanon and Egypt.

Lebanon and Egypt could face economic sanctions after again appearing on a US watch list for failing to enforce American companies' intellectual property rights (IPR).

The two countries - along with ten others - were highlighted in a report by the US government for failing to stop the piracy of copyrighted material such as software and music.

The annual report, the 2007 Special 301 Report, commends Egypt and Lebanon for steps taken to improve IPR, but states both countries are not doing anywhere near enough to combat piracy.

All countries on the list, which also includes Russia and China, will be the subject of further scrutiny with the possibility of sanctions to follow if the US government brings a case against them to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The US has previously filed copyright and patent cases against China with the WTO.

The report highlights "continuing deficiencies" in Egypt's IPR enforcement, as well as problems with its judicial system and a backlog of pending patent applications. It also expresses concern over the transshipment of counterfeit and pirated goods through a number of Egypt's ports.

The US describes Lebanon's IPR protection as inadequate, pointing to "rampant" cable piracy and retail piracy of copyrighted works as particular concerns. Last year, IT Weekly reported that Lebanese anti-piracy chiefs said software piracy rates had soared following last year's conflict.

In addition, another 31 nations, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, have been placed on a lesser watch list for their lack of IPR protection.