Piracy in Russia and China: A Different U.S. Reaction

Article excerpt

CONNIE NEIGEL [*]

I

INTRODUCTION

The development of copyright law in Russia and China is similar in several respects. Both countries developed their copyright laws much later than did Western Europe. Both countries refused to adopt international copyright agreements until pressured by other members of the international community, particularly the United States. Both countries refused adequately to protect foreign works. Despite these similarities, however, Russia and China have experienced very different treatment from the United States when U.S. copyrights have been violated. On the one hand, the United States has aggressively pursued trade sanctions against China to force it to adopt stricter intellectual property laws. With Russia, on the other hand, the United States has adopted a much milder approach and has not threatened trade remedies, despite the widespread piracy of U.S. works in Russia. In general, the United States has appeared to pursue different political, economic, and military goals in its relationships with Russia and China . For example, the United States supported the Russian government after the collapse of the Soviet Union and sought to strengthen the Russian economy, rather than possibly weakening it with threats of trade sanctions. In contrast, the United States threatened trade sanctions against China in an attempt to reduce the U.S. trade imbalance with China. In addition, U.S. policy toward China has been influenced by events in Tiananmen Square and other human rights abuses as well as China's policy of exporting arms and nuclear technology to Third World countries. By contrast, the United States has sought to maintain good relations with Russia to influence its policies of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. Finally, the United States has attacked piracy more aggressively in China because China exports its pirated works from the United States into Western markets, resulting in the direct competition of these low-cost, pirated works with legitimate U.S. works. For all of these reasons, the United States has pursu ed China's copyright abuses more aggressively than it has pursued similar abuses by Russia. This article attempts to explain the reasons for this disparate treatment.

This article supplements the treatment of intellectual property law in Law and Contemporary Problems, including the Spring 1996 issue on the Lanham Act. Part II of this article traces the indigenous historical development of Russia's copyright system during the era of tsarist rule in Russia up to the Soviet era and explores more recent responses to external pressures from other members of the international community, in particular the United States. In similar fashion, Part III traces the historical development of China's copyright system, indigenously as well as in response to U.S. trade pressures. Part IV then examines the U.S. response to piracy in Russia and China and attempts to explain the disparate treatment.

II

HISTORY OF RUSSIA'S COPYRIGHT LAW

Although Russia developed its first copyright law in the early nineteenth century, it did not adhere to international copyright agreements until almost 150 years later, when external pressures forced the then-Soviet Union to adapt its laws to more stringent international norms.

A. Indigenous Development of Russia's Copyright Law

Russia produced many of the great composers and authors of the world, but it lagged behind Western Europe in its development of copyright law by almost a century. [1] Western European countries published books in Slavic languages--and even used the Cyrillic alphabet--soon after the, invention of the printing press in 1476, but Russia did not publish its first known book until 1564, almost a century later. [2] Despite its late development, Russia's copyright law followed a similar path to the laws of Western Europe in the early years. Like its European counterparts, the Russian monarchy sought to control the dissemination of information by controlling printing. …