Egypt, Kuwait, Algeria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia are among 45 countries identified by the US government as posing a significant commercial threat to American Intellectual Property Rights.
The news comes as the Obama administration issued its 2009 hitlist of countries it says pose an ongoing commercial threat to American producers of films, music and other copyrighted material. It has called on lawmakers in each country to implement copyright reforms and prosecute infringements.
While all five Middle East and North Africa (MENA) territories are presently being monitored by US authorities, Algeria was included on a ‘priority hitlist’ of 12 countries, which are being heavily scrutinised and could face economic sanctions if the US government brings particular cases before the World Trade Organisation.
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the findings of the government’s copyright report would guide its position in dealing with specific cases in each country.
"Our creative and innovative products can hit the global marketplace sometimes with just a keystroke," Kirk said in a statement. "If we and our trading partners are not vigilant in protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights, they can vanish just as quickly."
The inclusion of Saudi Arabia on the list marks a significant blow for the country's authorities, who have taken steps in recent months to address the country's alarming rates of piracy, particularly in the pay TV, film and music distribution sectors.