United States Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick today
announced that the United States and Greece have formally resolved their World Trade Organization
(WTO) dispute over television piracy. This case concerned the Greek Government’s failure to
enforce its intellectual property laws effectively against television stations that broadcast U.S.
copyrighted works without authorization. The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) requires that countries provide effective
enforcement procedures that deter infringement of intellectual property rights.
Since the initiation of this case in April 1998, estimated levels
of television piracy in Greece have fallen significantly. Greece also passed new legislation providing
for the immediate closure of television stations that infringe upon intellectual property
rights. Acting on complaints by U.S. right holders, Greece has taken action under this law to close down
several stations that had pirated U.S. films. The first criminal convictions for television piracy
have also been issued in Greece, and the Greek Government has formally instructed public prosecutors to
ensure the timely prosecution of television piracy cases.
The Greek Government has committed to provide effective deterrence
against any increase in the level of television piracy, to continue its efforts in enforcing
its intellectual property laws, and to prevent any recurrence of the television piracy problem. The
United States looks to Greece to fulfill these commitments and strengthen its efforts to ensure
that cases involving infringement of intellectual property rights proceed through the court system
without unwarranted delays and that violators are punished by deterrent-level penalties as required
under the TRIPS Agreement.
Prior to the initiation of this case, the high rate of television
piracy in Greece had been a contentious bilateral issue between the United States and Greece
for years. Notwithstanding the existence of Greek laws prohibiting broadcast piracy, a large
number of small and medium-sized local and regional television stations in Greece had regularly
broadcast U.S. copyrighted motion pictures and television programs without authorization of the U.S.
copyright owners. No television station had ever been held criminally liable for copyright
infringement, no station had ever been closed by regulatory authorities for copyright violations, and TV
piracy cases languished in the Greek courts for years without resolution. The Motion Picture
Association estimated that the rate of TV piracy in Greece was 50%.
The TRIPS Agreement, however, requires WTO Members to provide
effective enforcement remedies that "constitute a deterrent to further
After the United States invoked WTO dispute settlement procedures,
the United States and Greece held several rounds of formal and informal consultations in
both Geneva and Athens. Based on the sharp decline in the level of television piracy in
Greece over the past years, Greece’s strengthened enforcement efforts, and a commitment by Greece to
continue these efforts, the United States, Greece and the European Union today notified the
WTO that a mutually satisfactory solution had been reached, thus resolving this