Internet music piracy pact gets into swing

GENEVA, Feb 21 (Reuters) - A ground-breaking international pact to protect musicians and the multi-billion dollar recording industry from Internet piracy

GENEVA, Feb 21 (Reuters) - A ground-breakinginternational pact to protect musicians and the multi-billion dollarrecording industry from Internet piracy will finally go into force inMay, a United Nations agency announced on Thursday.

Over five years after the treaty was signed, the needed number ofratifications for it to take effect was achieved on February 20 whenHonduras became the 30th country formally to join, the WorldIntellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) said.

The treaty -- the WIPO Phonograms and Performances Treaty (WPPT) --bars the unauthorised exploitation of recorded or live performances onthe World Wide Web.

It formally takes effect on May 20.

Together with a sister pact on protecting the copyright of authorsand publishers, due to come into force in March, the new treaty willbring "international copyright law into line with the digital age,"WIPO said in a statement.

The IFPI, the record industry association, welcomed the news, sayingthat the treaty would "benefit all record companies globally --independent and major record labels, in developing and developedcountries."

"It strengthens our industry's protection from piracy on theInternet and it provides the foundation needed for the music industryin every country to introduce new online delivery services," itadded.

There are no consensus figures for the cost to the music industry ofInternet piracy. But the International Intellectual Property Alliance(IIPA), a U.S. pressure group, calculated that U.S. industry lost $2billion in 2001, up from $1.8 billion the year before, from copyrightpiracy of music and records.

Under both treaties, countries guarantee the rights of "creators,performers and recording producers to control and/or be compensated forthe various ways in which their work is used or enjoyed by others,"WIPO said.

It noted that the music business pact would also give recordingartists and record companies the right to use technology to prevent theunlicensed reproduction of their work on the Internet.

The United States was among the first states to ratify the pact,which only has the force of law in those countries that have adoptedit.

Ratification in the European Union is taking longer because thebloc's 15 members all have to bring their domestic legislation intoline. But this process is expected to be completed by the end of theyear.

"Of course we want all countries covered, but this is an importantpolitical statement," said Jorgen Blomqvist, director of WIPO'scopyright law division.

- Reuters