Pages : From Russia With Larceny

Ponder the potential for royalties: In Russia, about 32 million copies of Agatha Christie books have been published illegally in the last five years alone.

The figures reflect what is apparently a gigantic increase in book piracy in Russia, according to PUBWATCH, an organization that monitors international publishing.

Pirates live up (or down) to their name by unlawfully copying and selling translated editions of books, thus circumventing the authors and original publishers in the profit chain.

Because they operate as an underground industry, pirates are notoriously hard to track down--much less to police.

In past years, Taiwan and China have been legendary as leaders among book pirates. But now it seems that Russia is jockeying for a place in the dubious hall of fame.

The situation prompted several Russian publishers to form the Publishers Task Force Against Piracy. The not-for-profit group is pushing the Supreme Soviet to pass copyright laws to curtail the piracy problem.

As part of its assault on piracy, the new task force has turned to the Assn. of American Publishers for advice.

Citing Russia as a high-priority country, the American group has said it will consider running a seminar about piracy at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year.

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