The Office of the United States Trade Representative has released its 2013 Special 301 report. The annual report lays out US concerns about intellectual property violations in dozens of countries, doling out cheers and jeers to countries for their efforts, or lack thereof, to crackdown on various forms of piracy.
While many of the offending countries remained the same from previous years, there were some notable re-classifications in this year's report. Specifically, Ukraine was bumped up from the Priority Watch List--where countries like China, Russia, and India have taken up long-term residence--and into a class of its own, being designated a Priority Foreign Country.
It's the first time in seven years the US has used the designation, which is reserved for "countries with the most egregious IPR (intellectual property rights)-related acts, policies and practices with the greatest adverse impact on relevant US products, and that are not entering into good faith negotiations or making significant progress in negotiations to provide adequate and effective IPR protection." The US is particularly upset with the Ukrainian government's admitted use of pirated software, its refusal to crack down on pirates (there was not a single online piracy-related conviction in 2012), and its tolerance (and even support) for rogue collecting agencies illegally claiming music royalties to which they have no right.
As for countries making improvements in the US' view, Canada and Israel were removed from the Priority Watch List and placed on the Watch List. Israel had been on the Priority Watch List since 2011, while Canada had occupied a spot on the list since 2009. Both countries were cited as following through on prior commitments to strengthen intellectual property rights laws.
The Entertainment Software Association released a statement expressing its satisfaction with the Special 301 Report regarding a handful of country placements. Specifically, the ESA said its recommendations to keep Russia on the Priority Watch with Brazil and Mexico on the Watch List were heeded. The group said Russia led all countries in peer-to-peer piracy of ESA members' games, with Brazil in second. Meanwhile, the ESA said Mexico has allowed the spread of both physical and digital pirated goods to go unchecked.