A quiet win for US diplomacy – (and a win for Ukraine by default)

September 8, 2015

For those that regularly get to meet the diplomatic corps and are offered the opportunity for one to one (rather than those awful round table/press events) the opportunity for “straight talking” in both directions presents itself.

For certain there are no illusions that the content of these conversations have an agenda and either directly or indirectly form part of a picture sent back to various capitals.  Likewise it is expected, and occasionally specifically pointed out, that certain parts of conversations are and will remain both confidential and sensitive.

Other parts of the conversation are not that sensitive (at least to the point where they would be classified as such), nor particularly confidential whether the subject matter is widely known or not.

Certainly a matter that is not confidential nor sensitive that is a constant for the US, via its embassy in Kyiv, has been trying to quietly force up the Ukrainian legislative agenda over recent years, has been the issue of intellectual property rights/protection.

Needless to say the Yanukovych regime had very little interest in such matters, and the post EuroMaidan government has been slightly preoccupied with what it considered somewhat more pressing issues.  To be fair to the US, it too had issues it thought more pressing here as well.

However, the issue of intellectual property rights/protection is a significant issue – both for trade and business with the EU and the US – indeed the “western world”.

Taking IT as one sector of many seriously effected by pirate/fake/illicit trade, it is no secret that for many, many years the vast majority of Ukrainian government/State institution computers ran on pirate Microsoft software.

Within a few days, occasionally a few hours, of a film being released at a cinema, it is available as a download on innumerate Ukrainian (and Russian) websites.   It takes no more than a week from release for the latest computer software to be illegally available and pirate copy installs available.  If the legitimate software costs $100 in the USA upon its release date, within 10 days in Odessa a pirate version is available for $3 – $5 per install.


There is no need to go on, suffice to say a walk around the (in)famous 7KM market on the outskirts of Odessa is a never ending display of industrial property rights by way of branding and logos.

However, after many years of “nudging” and “poking” and “bemoaning” it appears that intellectual property rights is about to be legislatively (if not necessarily enforced) by Ukraine – specifically with regard to issues IT/on-line.  (Nike, Adidas, Dolce, etc as far as 7KM is concerned will have to wait.)

The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade has developed a draft law that envisages strengthening of administrative liability for copyright infringement and clearly identifies the responsibilities of websites, hosts, uploaders and downloaders together with a list of fines and compliance times to avoid the judicial wheels of the administrative courts beginning to turn.

Unquestionably there will be more than the 226 votes required to see this Bill pass through the Rada.

A quiet diplomatic win the for the US via US Embassy Kyiv unquestionably (especially if it can actually insure Ukraine effectively applies the new legislation).  Yet it is also a win for Ukraine.  One of those little known statistics is that Ukraine ranks fourth in the world for Microsoft and Apple certificated programmers – discounting the thousands upon thousands of uncertified programmers doing whatever programmers do with Java, C++ and all that other unintelligible software code.

Thus, whatever all those certified (and uncertified) citizens of Ukraine are earning a living from is also subject to the same disregard for their intellectual property rights/protection – or at least those rights of their employers.

As it seems clear that the current Ukrainian leadership want to develop IT as a major Ukrainian economic sector (and with so many clever Microsoft and Apple certified techies it makes sense), all those fluent in code currently working for, or tempted to work for themselves, will be looking for the same protections and rights the US (and Europeans) wants to insure for its already well developed IT/on-line industries.

Once this Bill passes, it will be extremely interesting to see how effectively it is applied – and for how long.


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