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Cablegate: Tunisia Readies New Ipr Legislation

VZCZCXRO3243
PP RUEHTRO
DE RUEHTU #0992/01 2071252
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261252Z JUL 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3564
INFO RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 0905
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 7504
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1458
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1326
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT PRIORITY 0893
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1800
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 8414
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI PRIORITY 0119
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA PRIORITY 4117
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TUNIS 000992

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG (HARRIS) AND EB/IPE
STATE PASS USTR (BUNTIN) AND USAID (MCCLOUD)
USDOC FOR ITA/MAC/ONE (NATHAN MASON), ADVOCACY CTR (JAMES),
AND CLDP (TEJTEL AND MCMANUS)
USDOC PASS USPTO (ADAMS, BROWN AND MARSHALL)
CASABLANCA FOR FCS (ORTIZ)
EGYPT FOR FCS (MOEZIE)
LONDON AND PARIS FOR NEA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD KIPR TS
SUBJECT: TUNISIA READIES NEW IPR LEGISLATION

REF: A. 06 TUNIS 2963

B. 06 TUNIS 2771

-------
Summary
-------

1. (SBU) In a July 24 meeting with EconOff, Director General
of Tunisian Copyright Protection Organization (OTPDA),
Mohamed Kheireddine Abdel Ali, spoke optimistically and
enthusiastically about Tunisia's progress on intellectual
property rights protection and an increased GOT commitment to
the issue. Abdel Ali outlined upcoming draft legislation on
IPR, which will bring Tunisia's legislative framework into
compliance with existing international obligations and
improve GOT enforcement capabilities. End Summary.

-------------------------------
Commitment at the Highest Level
-------------------------------

2. (SBU) Abdel Ali spoke optimistically and enthusiastically
about Tunisia's progress on IPR protection, noting that
"things are moving." According to Abdel Ali, the movement is
due to the political will -- of President Ben Ali himself --
to improve IPR protection. Abdel Ali referenced the
President's National Culture Day speech, that stressed the
importance of intellectual property rights and adapting the
Tunisian legislative framework to international developments.
On 2006's Culture Day, Abdel Ali received a Cultural Order
of Merit award from Ben Ali, which according to Abdel Ali
demonstrated the importance the President attaches to his
work. Abdel Ali stated that when he took the helm of OTPDA
he was "like an orphan", but now "everyone -- the Ministers
of Commerce, Justice, Development, and Communications" is
talking about the importance of intellectual property rights.


--------------------
Enforcement Steps Up
--------------------

3. (SBU) Abdel Ali noted that since the end of 2006 there
have been over 700 inspections, leading to the closure of 100
stores and the issuance of 300 tickets. EconOff emphasized
that the Embassy was happy to see Carrefour remove pirated
optical discs from its store (Ref B), but noted that another
store in the Carrefour shopping center had since begun
selling pirated discs. Abdel Ali told EconOff he would ask a
contact on the enforcement task force to look into that
particular example, but added that this example highlighted
the difficulty of enforcement. He remarked that while it
would be impossible to eliminate counterfeiting, the goal is
to reduce counterfeiting to the lowest level tolerable. He
acknowledged, however, that piracy in Tunisia is currently at
"an intolerable level."

---------------
New Legislation
---------------

4. (SBU) Abdel Ali outlined the new legislation on IPR
protection and enforcement that is currently being drafted.
He emphasized that the changes would bring Tunisia's
legislative framework in compliance with international
obligations, such as the Convention of Rome. Currently there
are several areas where Tunisian law contradicts
international treaty obligations. For example, Tunisian law
grants 25 years of protection on software, while the WTO
requires 50 years. While in the judicial system treaty
obligations supersede Tunisian law, the new law will remove
these contradictions. The law also aims to improve

TUNIS 00000992 002 OF 002


enforcement by giving OTPDA enforcement capabilities and by
easing the procedural burdens required to seize counterfeit
goods. According to Abdel Ali, customs inspectors and
enforcement agents will be authorized to seize counterfeit
goods without prior authorization from the Ministry of
Justice. The legislation will also align the sanctions for
neighboring rights and authors' rights, while increasing the
penalties for infringement of both. Fines will be raised and
range from 5,000 to 50,000 Tunisian dinars, with a
possibility of doubling the fines for repeat offenders. The
draft also proposes allowing prison sentences of up to one
year. Abdel Ali drafted significant portions of the
legislation himself but noted that the legislation is still
under review. He speculated that it would be passed before
December.

------------------
Future Cooperation
------------------

5. (SBU) Abdel Ali expressed eagerness to continue
cooperation with the USG on IPR issues. He noted his
interest in learning from the US experience in dealing with
Internet-based piracy, such as peer-to-peer file sharing.
Abdel Ali also welcomed any assistance the USG could provide
in terms of software for registering copyrights and
calculating royalty payments. He noted that OTPDA had not
been able to find a program that matched its needs and
complained of the time wasted by keeping manual records.
OTPDA also looks forward the proposed MEPI-funded USPTO
seminar on copyright enforcement.

-------
Comment
-------

6. (SBU) As Abdel Ali noted himself, the current level of
piracy in Tunisia remains high and unacceptable. While more
must be done, the new legislation is welcome and demonstrates
a commitment to improving Tunisia's IPR protection regime.
Yet, it is often in the enforcement and application of IPR
laws where Tunisia falls short. The GOT can claim Carrefour
as a success, but the continued sale of pirated optical discs
in most major retail stores and complexes reveals that
enforcement remains lax. Whether the new law will bring the
promised improvements in enforcement remains to be seen. END
COMMENT.
GODEC

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