IP Theft Detrimental to the Economy and Consumers

Yesterday, the White House hosted a summit on the effects of global intellectual property theft and ways to combat it. I applaud the administration for recognizing the significance of IP as a driver of economic growth and job creation to the U.S. economy.

The importance of IP to the economy is difficult to overstate. This is not a victimless crime or one that only affects big Hollywood studios and the Jay-Z’s of the world. Millions of jobs depend of the protection of intellectual property. The U.S. copyright industry provides jobs to over 11 million Americans. Intellectual property-related industries employ over 18 million Americans. These jobs are ensured and protected due to protections that allow for stability in the industry. If these protections are discarded, many of these workers are likely to lose their jobs as an effect of lost revenue in the industry.

Besides the loss of jobs due to IP theft, honest consumers are hit with increased prices on all copyright protection technologies, such as iTunes, Napster, and other legal downloading providers. These services currently operate at low costs to consumers and allow for easy legal downloading that does not infringe upon copyrights.

Government has a key role to play in combating IP theft through increased enforcement, but it also has a responsibility to not impede the efforts of companies to use technologies to protect their investments. Unfortunately, there are those that believe access to creative works should be free and efforts to put in place technologies that reduce digital piracy should be obstructed.

While the White House was hosting the roundtable, a great report was released by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. The report, "Steal These Policies: Strategies for Reducing Digital Piracy", offers several “lead bullets” that can help reduce piracy. The report recommends policymakers support anti-piracy innovation, including the development of new technological means, such as digital rights management (DRM) and network management; encourage inter industry coordination to take steps to fight digital piracy; and to continue to pursue international agreements to protect intellectual property, including digital content. All of this can be done while ensuring consumer privacy through the implementation of safeguards. These policy principles not only make online infringement more difficult but it also encourages new legal models that make it easier for consumers to access creative works.

Kudos to both the Administration and ITIF for being pro-active in the fight against IP theft.