Getting Serious in the Fight Against IP Theft

This week has seen remarkable progress by both the executive and legislative branches in the effort to combat the counterfeiting and piracy that has harmed creators and innovators, as well as the U.S. economy for some time.

Yesterday, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel, released the first nationwide strategy to combat the theft of intellectual property. This issue has had broad bipartisan support in Congress as well as backing in the Administration.

The plan outlines 33 “enforcement strategy action items” that are split into 6 categories:

  • leading by example
  • increasing transparency
  • ensuring efficiency and coordination
  • enforcing our rights internationally
  • securing our supply chain
  • building a data-driven Government.

At an event yesterday announcing the plan Vice President Joe Biden didn’t dance around his feelings on piracy stating: “Piracy is theft, clean and simple… We’re going after the people. We’re going after the web sites.”

In a time when many in my generation have accepted piracy as a legitimate way to acquire content because it’s easy or they feel it’s a victimless crime, this sentiment needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Just as it’s wrong for me to walk into a supermarket and steal a bag of oranges, it’s also wrong to go online and illegally download (steal) a song or a movie. Doing this does not “stick it to big media.” Millions of people are employed by industries dependent on intellectual property. When profits are lost due to counterfeiting and piracy, so are jobs.

A similar message was delivered this morning at a hearing held by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary entitled Oversight of the Office of the Intellectual Property Coordinator. Senators on both sides of the aisle vowed to move ahead with legislation that would target foreign Web sites and others engaged in stealing United States intellectual property. Additionally, Senators called for copyright holders, access providers, and payment-processors to come together to find a private solution to combat piracy. This is absolutely welcome news. As PFF’s Tom Sydnor eloquently states, this idea “reflects not only the political courage required to speak truth to the self-righteously self-centered, but also the re-affirmation of a point that Congress rather quietly encoded in the DMCA in 1998: the best solutions to the challenges of digital piracy are likely to be those developed as a result of cooperation between private parties with diverse interests.”

I strongly urge members of Congress, the Administration, and everyone involved in the creation and delivery of content to move forward to come up with real solutions to the problems of rampant counterfeiting and piracy.