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Virginia Senate Moves Forward on Eminent Domain Reform
Friday, February 25, 2011 3:37 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

This week, the Virginia Senate came one step closer to enacting true reform that would end eminent domain abuse in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In a 35-5 vote, the Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would redefine and limit the public uses for which private property may be confiscated by the government. Eminent domain is still allowed under this legislation for traditional public uses, such as schools and transportation projects for the state of Virginia, but the state would be required to fully compensate the owner. Eminent domain for the purpose of private economic development would be prohibited under the amendment.

In a Richmond Times Dispatch op-ed, A. Barton Hinkle made the case for why reform is needed in Virginia by offering a few cases of abuse that involved:

•Roanoke seizing a building that belonged to the owners of a mom-and-pop flooring company so it could turn the property over to Carilion, a billion-dollar health-care corporation.

•Norfolk trying to seize the property of Central Radio so it could hand the land over to Old Dominion University.

•VDOT trying to cheat a small day-care owner out of just compensation — and spending more on lawyers to fight the case than it would have shelled out by paying her original asking price.

The 2005 Kelo v. City of New London decision by the Supreme Court provided local governments the unrestricted opportunity to take homes and small businesses for private development. Following this court decision, legislation in both Congress and state capitals around the country has been debated on what the proper role of government is with regard to the use of eminent domain.

This is just the beginning of the process to enact reform in Virginia. For an amendment to be added to the constitution, the amendment must pass the General Assembly twice with an election in between and then go to a vote of the people through the referendum process.
 

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Intellectual Property Still Remains a Major Issue
Friday, February 25, 2011 11:57 am | By Katerina Bricker

With the recent Senate Judiciary hearing on rogue websites and the upcoming hearing in the House Judiciary’s IP subcommittee regarding the White House’s IP office, intellectual property continues the remain at the forefront of policy debates.

Theft of intellectual property is a huge problem in the United States, as well as the world. Doing a simple Google search, you will find articles, citing fake cigarettes, pirated DVDs/CDs, fake purses, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, fake iPads, fake sports jerseys, and the list goes on. This is an ever-growing issue in the U.S. and keeps getting worse the more technology seems to advance.
 
A report released by the IPEC on Intellectual Property Enforcement states that in 2010, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) opened 1,033 intellectual property investigations, which lead to 365 arrests, 216 indictments, and 170 convictions. In 2009, 730 investigations were opened, 266 arrests took place, 116 indictments, and 164 convictions. The numbers speak for themselves. The ICE’s intellectual property investigations increased by more than 41% and arrests increased by more than 37% from 2009. The FBI’s intellectual property investigations increased by more than 44% from 2009.
 
Intellectual property drives this economy. IP accounts for half of our exports and employs nearly 18 million workers. But this is not an issue that affects the U.S. alone. The 2010 International Property Rights Index, released by PRA, found people in countries that protect their physical and intellectual property enjoy a GDP per capita up to eight times greater than those without legal protection. As Congress considers rogue sites legislation and the administration looks to move forward on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, the debate on intellectual property rights won't fade away anytime soon.

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Congress Focuses on Rogue Sites
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 3:17 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

The problem of “rogue” websites that offer counterfeit and pirated content continues to be a growing problem. The websites where illegal content often appears are for-profit websites that have the look and feel of a lawful site and stay afloat by raking in hundreds of millions of dollars through advertising and subscription-based revenue. A recent study conducted by MarkMonitor estimated that these sites attract billions of visits per year and cost legitimate businesses an estimated $135 billion in lost revenue annually.

This is theft, pure and simple and as Sen. Leahy stated during today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on intellectual property infringement, “Inaction is not an option.”

Last Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed out of committee Senator Leahy’s “Combating Online Infringement of Counterfeits Act.” The legislation would provide the U.S. Department of Justice the ability to target any site whose sole purpose is the criminal distribution of infringing materials. Once these sites are identified, the DOJ must prove to a federal judge that the site’s central purpose is IP infringement before an injunction against the website can be issued. Much of the bill is targeted towards websites that are largely based offshore but the domain name registrar or registry is based in the United States. The legislation has yet to be re-introduced this Congress but Leahy made clear that a new bill would be arriving shortly.

This is an important issue and I am glad to see the Judiciary Committee holding hearings to give all the stakeholders in e-commerce from domain name registrars and registers to Internet service providers to payment processors the opportunity to layout their concerns.

Representatives from Rosetta Stone, the Author’s Guild, GoDaddy.com, Visa, and Verizon all testified and recognized the threat of these websites to the online ecosystem. But how to go after online infringers continues to be a hotly debated issue and as Verizon’s Tom Dailey made clear, there is no 100 percent solution when it comes to online infringement. Law enforcement indeed has a role to play in protecting property rights online but it is not the be-all and end-all solution and it definitely should not be the first line of defense. Recent industry-led efforts to target rogue sites that specialize in peddling counterfeit pharmaceuticals and stop them from doing business offers a promising model and this sort of collaborative effort should be expanded upon to combat all forms of intellectual property theft.

Reasonably crafted legislation coupled with cooperation amongst private actors will go a long way in combating online theft. I am looking forward to future hearings regarding digital theft in both the Senate and the House.
 

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