Italy, Spain, China, Brazil and France are key problem zones when it comes to online game piracy, says the U.S.-based trade group Entertainment Software Association.
The ESA points to a "Special 301" report that's been filed with the U.S. Trade Representative by the International Intellectual Property Alliance, which seeks to help the government combat copyright infringement issues worldwide.
The ESA is a member of the IIPA, which recommended that the U.S. Trade Representative include 33 countries on a watchlist of nations that aren't taking adequate measures to address copyright infringement, or that don't provide sufficient channels for content creators to bring their work to market legally.
According to the ESA, peer-to-peer sharing is a primary conduit enabling "extraordinarily high" levels of online game piracy in Italy, China, Spain, Brazil and France. 54 percent of infringing game sharing worldwide in 2010 can be sourced to P2P activity in those five nations, says the trade body.
ESA member companies reported more than 144 million connections involved in unauthorized peer-to-peer game file sharing, says the trade body. The top five countries of concern accounted for 78 million of these -- more than five times the number attributed to U.S. users, the group adds.
Devices like flashcarts that make it easier to copy data or play copied games also contribute and are still too widely available, despite recent crackdowns, the ESA adds.
"Our industry continues to grow in the U.S., but epidemic levels of online piracy stunt sales and growth in a number of countries, including Italy, China, Spain, Brazil and France, where we see crushing volumes of infringing peer-to-peer activity involving leading game titles," says ESA president and CEO Michael Gallagher.
Along with the rest of the IIPA, the ESA is recommending that the USTR -- which has the ability to impose trade sanctions on certain nations, pending an investigation period -- place Spain on a "Priority Watch List". The group says that "lax policies" in Spain "have fostered a culture permissive of piracy."
The USTR established the Priority Watch List
in May of 2010, identifying 11 countries including Canada and China as areas of particular concern. There is also a "Watch List" for less immediate infringement problems; previously on the Watch List, the group is now urging a step up to Priority for Spain.
Other nations, like Brazil, will remain on the regular Watch List, as the group believes new administrators in the region are addressing the areas of concern in the nation's IP protection methods. According to the report, Brazil's market barriers mean that legitimate purchases are often priced out of the reach of most consumers, and as such Brazil is fourth on "overall volume of detections" worldwide.
Italy also remains on the Watch List: "The Italian government appears to recognize the gravity of the problem and has launched an official consultation to examine potential remedies," says the group. Meanwhile, Canada and China remain on the Priority list.
"Game publishers lose opportunities for export sales, and the U.S. loses opportunities to expand our export economy, and consumers in those countries lose local benefits of having a thriving game market," Gallagher says.