Trade talks between US and China this week yielded some "incremental" commitments by China to reduce IP (intellectual property) infringements, said a group representing US software and entertainment companies.

Yesterday's US-China JCCT (Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade) talks appear to have produced a "modest advance" in IP protections in China, said the IIPA (International Intellectual Property Alliance), a coalition of seven trade groups representing more than 1,900 US companies with copyright interests.

Although in 2004 the Chinese government committed to reduce IP violations, piracy remains high there, and promises to reduce infringement "have yet to be redeemed by the Chinese authorities", the IIPA said in a news release. The true test of the talks will be whether China increases enforcement against copyright infringers, including fines and jail terms, it added.

The BSA (Business Software Alliance) trade group representing major US software vendors praised the talks. China's step, announced on Monday, to require computers sold in the country to include preloaded, legal OSs (operating systems) will help combat software piracy, said Robert Holleyman, BSA president and CEO. But the BSA remains concerned about large businesses in China pirating business-related software, often by buying a handful of legal copies then copying the software to many other computers, and preloaded OSs won't address that problem, he said.

Holleyman, in a statement released after the talks, said the discussions are headed in the right direction. "We remain hopeful that the Chinese government will translate these principles into concrete action," he said.

China has laws against IP infringement, but enforcement is lax, Holleyman said earlier yesterday at a press conference. When Chinese law enforcement officials take action against software pirates, the results often aren't publicised, meaning there's no deterrent for other copyright violators.

"We'd like to see some progress in terms of criminal enforcement," Holleyman said.

After the JCCT talks, Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi announced that China has committed to conducting seven special enforcement operations against IP pirates this year, and it will open infringement reporting centres in 50 cities.

China will also accelerate the transfer of piracy cases from administrative to criminal enforcement bodies, she said, and the government there will crack down on consumer markets selling pirated software, CDs and DVDs.

The ITAA (Information Technology Association of America), a technology trade group, said yesterday that "much more" needs to be done to protect IP in China. However, it applauded China's promise to refrain from issuing government procurement guidelines giving Chinese vendors preference over foreign companies. Such a policy would have hurt competition and Chinese customers, the ITAA said.