Italy, Switzerland added to congressional anti-piracy watch list

The Anti-Piracy Caucus releases the watch list each year to put a spotlight on countries it believes are failing to protect copyrighted material and clamp down on websites that offer pirated content. In its report, the caucus also makes recommendations on how each country can improve its copyright enforcement efforts and eventually be removed from the list.

"Our creative industries employ millions of Americans and are some of our most competitive exports," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a statement. "All we want is a level playing field where all nations live up to their obligations to protect intellectual property and enforce existing laws.”

China, Russia and Ukraine were all featured on the watch list last year. The Anti-Piracy Caucus argued in its report that Russia should take action against the websites included in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative's "Notorious Markets" list of infringing sites since it's now a member of the World Trade Organization.

While the Anti-Piracy Caucus says piracy remains rampant in China, it acknowledged that popular Chinese sites Baidu and Taobao have strengthened their efforts to clamp down on pirated material.

Both Canada and Spain were on the list last year but have been deemed "countries in transition" after they recently passed anti-piracy legislation. The Anti-Piracy Caucus said in its report that it hopes to see both countries continue to strengthen their copyright laws.

Other than Schiff, members of the Anti-Piracy Caucus include Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

The members supported a pair of anti-piracy bills that were defeated earlier this year after a wave of online protests forced Congress to shelve them. Goodlatte and Schiff were co-sponsors of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Whitehouse and Hatch both were co-sponsors of the Protect IP Act (PIPA), though Hatch later reversed his support for the bill on the day Wikipedia, Reddit and scores of other sites blacked out to protest the anti-piracy bills.

Both measures aimed to crack down on copyright-infringing sites based abroad and would have forced search engines, online ad companies and others to cut off business with the sites if served with a court order. Critics said the bills lacked due process and would hamper innovation on the Web.

Copyright protection is a top policy issue for the entertainment industry's lobby shops in Washington. Although the entertainment lobbies continue to push for stepped-up anti-piracy measures, it's unlikely that Congress will act on legislation this year after SOPA and PIPA went down in defeat.