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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Canada has joined China and Russia on the U.S. software, music and movie industries' annual list of countries with the worst record of fighting piracy of copyright goods, an industry coalition said on Monday.
"While there has been a few positive developments in these key markets over the year, the bottom line is that piracy levels have not come down at all or only marginally, and in some countries the situation has grown worse," Eric Smith, president of the International Intellectual Property Alliance, said in a statement.
The group asked the U.S. Trade Representative's office to place all three countries on the U.S. government's "priority watch list" for copyright theft and urged the same designation for 10 others: Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Ukraine.
It recommended placing 29 other countries or territories on the lower priority "watch list," including the following new additions: Spain, Greece, Sweden, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Brunei, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Kazakhstan.
USTR releases its annual list at the end of April.
U.S. business software companies lost an estimated $511 million in sales last year in Canada because of piracy, up from $494 million in 2006, the International Intellectual Property Alliance said. One-third of the business software used in Canada in 2007 was an illegal copy, down just 1 percentage point from the previous year, the group said.
Also, 10 years after signing World Intellectual Property Organization treaties extending copyright protections to the Internet, Canada still has taken "no meaningful steps toward modernizing its copyright law to meet the global minimum standards," the group said.
The industry coalition said it "conservatively" estimates that U.S. companies lost at least $30 billion to $35 billion in sales around the world in 2007.
China again led the list with estimated lost sales in that market of $2.98 billion, from $2.43 billion in 2006. U.S. business software companies suffered the biggest piracy losses -- $2.47 billion -- the group said.
However, U.S. recording industry losses in China more than doubled in 2007 to $451 million, as the market share for pirated music rose to 90 percent.
"Online and mobile piracy have become huge problems with China's Internet-connected population having reached 210 million at the end of 2007 and with over 500 million mobile devices in the marketplace," the group said.
Russia, as part of its negotiations to join the World Trade Organization, signed an agreement with the United States in November 2006 pledging action to reduce piracy.
More than one year later, Russia has not fully implemented that pact and the country's copyright piracy problem "remains one of the most serious in the world. Piracy rates for some sectors continues at over 70 percent in 2007," the group said.
However, total losses in Russia fell last year to an estimated $1.43 billion, from $1.96 billion in 2006.
Russia has made some progress implementing the November 2006 agreement, but still needs to enact some legislative changes it promised to make, said Gretchen Hamel, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office.
"We have made it quite clear that full implementation of the November 2006 IPR agreement now is essential for completion of the (WTO) accession negotiations," Hamel said, adding there are some signs Moscow is moving to do that.
Editing by Mohammad Zargham