Feds seek details on China’s piracy prevention

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Bush administration, under pressure to deal with a soaring trade deficit with China, asked the Chinese government Wednesday to outline what it’s doing to reduce the piracy of American movies, computer programs and other copyrighted material.

The formal request for details on China’s enforcement efforts was made through the Geneva-based World Trade Organization and could be a precursor to WTO-authorized economic sanctions if the United States uses the information in a trade case against China. Japan and Switzerland filed similar information requests.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the violations of intellectual property rights in China,” U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said in announcing the action. He said “piracy and counterfeiting remain rampant in China despite years of engagement on this issue.”

A call to the Chinese Embassy seeking comment was not immediately returned.

The U.S. request sought information on how many enforcement cases have been brought by the Chinese, including a breakdown of how many resulted in criminal penalties and civil fines.

The U.S. is seeking a response by Jan. 23. U.S. officials said they were hopeful China would comply but that Chinese officials had given no indication during prelimary talks about what they intended to do.

American businesses contend they are losing billions of dollars a year because China is failing to enforce the laws it has on the books to prevent the piracy of American-made movies, music, computer software and other products. The U.S. industry has estimated that in some categories virtually 90 percent of the items being sold in China are pirated.

“Today’s action speaks loudly to the will of the administration to press the Chinese government for key reforms that will help China meet its international obligations,” said Mitch Bainwol, chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America. “We hope China will soon develop strategies to attack piracy more successfully.”

Saddam’s lawyers seek protection

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) – Iraqi lawyers defending Saddam Hussein said Wednesday they had suspended further dealings with the Special Tribunal trying him until their safety is guaranteed, citing the kidnapping and murder of a lawyer representing one of the former dictator’s co-defendants last week.

A statement signed by Khalil al-Dulaimi, who leads the former dictator’s defense team, said poor security put the lawyers and their families in danger.

“Due to the extreme deterioration of the security situation in Iraq, and the repercussions facing the Iraqi defense team and their families, we are stopping all dealings with the court until the situation is reversed,” the defense said in the statement, which was faxed to The Associated Press.

One of Saddam’s lawyers, Khamees Hamid al-Ubaidi, said last week that the entire defense team had rejected an offer of guards from the Interior Ministry, pointing to frequent Sunni Arab accusations that ministry forces or Shiite militias linked to the government have killed members of the minority that was dominant under Saddam.

He said then that they were talking with U.S. officials about getting protection from American troops.

But the defense team statement signed by al-Dulaimi said Wednesday that it would seek United Nations protection for the Iraqi lawyers because they do not trust either the U.S. military or the Iraqi government to ensure their safety.

“One Iraqi lawyer was assassinated and others received several death threats, and they don’t trust either the Americans or the Iraqi government,” an adviser with Saddam’s legal team, Issam Ghazzawi, told AP in a telephone interview.

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