Israel Could Be Next in Piracy Crackdown

Move over, Brazil. Step aside, China. Make room for Israel, king of the copyright-violation hill. US Trade Representative Charlene Barshevsky announced in mid-February that sanctions could soon be imposed on the Middle Eastern nation for what the State Department calls piracy of "epidemic proportions."

The US ambassador to Israel, Edward Walker, suggested earlier in the month that trade sanctions might be applied to Israel to try to rein in the wholesale piracy of American films and CDs. "Israel's fundamental interest must be protecting intellectual property rights," Walker warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to Barshevsky, Israel is among the world's worst copyright offenders, alongside China, Brazil, Paraguay, and Bulgaria. The US has found it difficult to affect economic policies and internal procedures in Israel due to strong support for the nation among members of both the US Congress and the American entertainment industry.

The piracy problem has been made worse in the past two years by the Israeli Knesset, the nation's governing body, which weakened what the Los Angeles Times called "already feeble copyright laws." The situation is compounded by the fact that some illicit Israeli-owned duplicating plants are in the West Bank area controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The US Trade Representative's office is required to submit a yearly report to Congress on the state of intellectual property rights worldwide. The office is also empowered to impose sanctions against violators.