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Russia reports 15% decrease in piracy last year

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MOSCOW, April 17 (RIA Novosti) - Copyright piracy in Russia which has been a major obstacle to the country joining the WTO dropped by 15% in 2007, year-on-year, the Russian Interior Ministry said on Thursday.

Russia, the second-largest market for pirated products after China, has been strongly criticized for its failure to protect intellectual property rights.

Over 4,000 people were arrested in 2007, and more than 800 people in January-March this year for breaching copyright laws, said Vladimir Lukyanov, a deputy head of the ministry's economic security department.

Almost 4 million counterfeit items, mainly computer software, DVDs and CDs, worth an estimated 182 million rubles ($8 million) were seized last year, the official added.

In 2007, Russia introduced a new law prohibiting the sale of pirated goods on Russian streets, kiosks and retail outlets.

However, a spokesman for the economic security department, Vladimir Tsvetkov, said unlicensed CDs were now available for sale online over the Internet, especially in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

In 2006, Russia was ranked in the top 10 of the world's worst offending countries for piracy according to a report by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA).

The issue was a major stumbling block in Russia's World Trade Organization accession talks with the United States. The sides eventually signed a final agreement in 2006 after Moscow promised to get tough on intellectual property violations.

The problem of unlicensed software in Russia has been highlighted by the case of school principal Alexander Ponosov, charged with copyright violation after he bought a set of computers for his school containing unlicensed Microsoft software.

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