Estonia lowers boom on piracy

  • 2000-04-06
  • By Brooke Donald
TALLINN – The war against the selling of pirated goods in Estonia has turned away from businesses in violation for using black-market computer software and toward the stalls of one of Tallinn's most visited tourist attractions, Kadaka turg.

The 10-year-old market in the Mustamae borough of the capital is the latest target by anti-piracy advocates because of its "long-term, extensive, open and continuing violation of copyrights, related rights and the rights of trademark owners," according to a letter written by the Estonian Association of Motion Pictures Distributors (EFL) and signed by over 30 representatives of businesses and distribution unions worldwide.

The letter was delivered to Prime Minister Mart Laar and Tallinn Mayor Juri Mois on March 31, along with copies of pirated films, music and computer software products that members of EFL purchased at Kadaka during the three weeks prior to presenting their evidence to the respective governments.

The Internal Affairs, Justice and Culture ministries, the U.S. Embassy, an EU representative, the MPA Bureau in Europe, IFPI, WTO and TRIPS secretariats and news agencies also received copies of the letter.

Laar's spokesman, Priit Poiklik, confirmed that the prime minister received the letter and the goods allegedly sold on the black-market at Kadaka. He also said the government supported the fight against piracy referring to legislation passed last year that brings Estonia in line with international laws regarding intellectual property.

"[Unlicensed goods] are a problem," Poiklik said. "Anything which is illegal is a problem that should be fought by the authorities. The laws are in place, now the police must fight the abuses."

The mayor's office had no comment at press time. Marrire Vaske, Mois' assistant, said the mayor had not yet received the letter from EFL.

Over the past several months, Business Software Alliance has fought the battle against the use of pirated computer software at small and medium sized companies around Tallinn. Since the campaign began in September, the Estonian arm of the non-profit lobby group for software developers has raided several businesses which have resulted in at least two criminal prosecutions and over 500,000 kroons ($31,000) in penalties.

Kadaka market is a likely battlefield for fighting piracy because of the blatant violations of the rights of trademark owners obvious to even the most untrained observer browsing for clothes, electronic equipment and software products, the letter states.

As many of the shoppers come from abroad for the cheap items, the reputation of Tallinn and Estonia is also on the line, according to the letter.

"Polls conducted in both Finland and Estonia have shown that the tourists shopping on the Kadaka market are well aware of the illegal nature of the goods on offer," the letter said. "This fact may be regarded as damaging the reputation of both Tallinn and Estonia – the opinion that the implementation of Estonian legislation is incomplete."

According to the letter, the Kadaka market has reduced the sales of the Finnish entertainment industry by approximately 12 percent because of commercial tourists.

Several estimates by international and local organizations put the annual turnover for illegal software music and video at over 500 million kroons ($31.2 million) among Kadaka and other markets around town.

Nancy Nelson, economic officer at the U.S. Embassy here, said now that Estonia's legislation is in compliance with international treaties and norms, local authorities will eventually be able to rid Tallinn of its copyright abuses.

"It will go away because it has to go away," she said. "Estonia is rejoining its position in the West, the government is committed. But, the road from here to there is fuzzy and rocky, especially with Kadaka turg. How does one redirect the shops from selling pirated goods to legitimate ones?"