US threats to cut off trade benefits to Brazil over piracy of movies, software and music are unacceptable given the nation's efforts to combat the contraband, Brazil's Justice Ministry and lawmakers said on Friday.
Trade in pirated versions of the latest Hollywood movies and US CDs and DVDs is rampant in Brazil. One of Brazil's biggest contraband markets stands just a few miles from the Justice Ministry.
Washington warned Brazil last Wednesday that it could lose billions of dollars worth of duty-free access to US markets each year unless it does more to crack down on copyright theft.
Brazilian lawmakers acknowledged the nation's huge piracy problem but said officials were doing a lot to overcome it with better coordination between law enforcement and government agencies.
"Brazil has a law, Brazil has legislation, Brazil has judges," Clovis da Silva Monteiro, who coordinates the ministry's antipiracy committee, said in a congressional debate on the trade dispute. "This is just a way of exerting pressure."
Brazil has signed international accords against copyright theft but pirated goods from around the world flood into the nation from neighboring Paraguay. Others are made domestically.
Piracy cost US companies US$700 million in lost Brazilian sales during 2003 alone, according to the International Intellectual Property Alliance, a US consortium of music, movie, software and publishing groups.
The alliance has long pushed for the US to suspend benefits for Brazil under the Generalized System of Preferences in retaliation for copyright theft. The program allows some developing countries to ship goods to the US without paying duties.
The US said it would renew Brazil's eligibility for the program for three months -- rather than the customary year -- while it reviewed the complaint.
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