The Entertainment Software Association has submitted a filing to the U.S. Trade Representative highlighting “dramatic increases” in online piracy, singling out particularly persistent problems in countries including China, Malaysia, Russia – and Canada.

According to the report, the production of pirated discs and cartridges in China and Malaysia for export to other countries, saturation of the Russian market by factory-produced pirated games, an online piracy “explosion” in Europe and high tariffs and taxes in Brazil and India are all “challenges” facing the game industry today specified in a Special 301 Report by the International Intellectual Property Alliance. Closer to home, the report also cited “deficiencies” in Canada, saying, “Pirated copies of games and circumvention devices have permeated retail markets in Canada, due to legal deficiencies and that IPR (intellectual property rights) enforcement remains a low priority for public officials.” The report comes despite the ESA’s own admission that 2007 was a record-breaking year for the videogame industry, with revenue generation nearing $19 billion.

“Countries that support computer and video game piracy discourage publishers from establishing viable and legitimate markets. The Special 301 process sends a strong message to them to clean up their act to avoid damaging trade sanctions,” said ESA President Mike Gallagher. “In 2007, our industry had a record-breaking year with receipts totaling $18.85 billion, but piracy closes off promising markets, artificially limiting our industry’s ability to contribute even more economic growth to the American high-tech economy and economies of our trading partners.”

USTR has been a leader in the fight to protect America’s creative industries from the theft of our products,” he continued. “This year our Special 301 filing highlights countries that urgently need to begin backing up their commitment to creativity and innovation. We look forward to working with USTR and other supporting government agencies to achieve tangible results and hopefully succeed in lowering piracy in these key countries. Freeing these markets from the pirates’ stranglehold will also help empower a local video game economy.”

The ESA filing comes on the heels of a document published by the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs which lists the U.S., along with Iran, Afghanistan and China, as among countries that torture prisoners. Industry officials have not commented on a possible connection.

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