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White House touts anti-piracy strategy


The White House is promising to follow through on its vow to get tough on global piracy.

In a report detailing how the Obama administration plans to deal with Hollywood's most vexing problem, Victoria Espinel, who holds the title of U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator, outlined more than 30 steps on how to toughen up when it comes to protecting intellectual property.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America, the main lobbying arm for the studios, hailed the plan as "an important step in combating intellectual property theft and protecting the millions of jobs and businesses that rely so heavily on copyrights, patents and trademarks and help drive the American economy."

Mitch Bainwol, chairman and chief executive of the Recording Industry Assn. of America, added that report is a "welcome step toward reversing the dangerous trajectory that has endangered America's creative community. Addressing the problem of intellectual property theft in a meaningful way is essential to enhancing our global competitiveness and protecting American innovation."

Some of Espinel's steps seem to be fairly routine, such as better coordination between law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local levels and developing a database to track piracy investigations. Others seem kind of obvious, like making sure that the government itself isn't buying and using counterfeit products.

However, there are some recommendations here that could have teeth. For example, Espinel advocates adding law enforcement personnel with backgrounds in intellectual property theft to countries "in which intellectual property enforcement is a priority." In other words, send more bodies to China and Russia.

Another proposal: working with foreign governments to crack down on foreign-based websites that engage in piracy.

Let's hope the measures advocated here and the motivations behind them are easier to execute in practice than they are to understand on paper. In her letter to the White House and Congress, Espinel wrote: "Intellectual property laws and rights provide certainty and predictability for consumers and producers in the exchange of innovative and creative products, and for investors shifting capital to their development. Where there are insufficient resources, ability, or political will to appropriately enforce these rights, exchanges between investors, producers and consumers may be inefficient, corrupt or even dangerous."

We think that translates to creativity is good and theft is bad.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, right, speaks as Vice President Joe Biden listens during a June 22 event to introduce the government's intellectual property enforcement strategy at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington.

Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images


Comments () | Archives (3)

I hope, they will work at the same time and with as much energy on opening up markets for people to buy what they want to buy. Right now, I am unable to buy music legally from Europe that is not available here in North America. European stores are kept by big music labels from selling any digital content to anybody outside their own country -- and yes, sometimes it's even limited to countries, not the whole EU. For example, mp3s that are sold by Amazon's German store can't be sold to other German speaking countries, like Switzerland and Austria.

Now, the irony of the matter: If I want to pay a fortune in shipping, there is nothing holding me back ordering physical CDs. But those shipping expenses only support the postal systems and exceed by far the cost of the CDs.

Maybe, while there at it, they also might reconsider the pricing structure -- I'm happy to pay my share to any artist, but within reason. Music has been getting more and more expensive over the past few years. I'm still spending about $40/month on music, but I get much less for it now.

As for movies? I'd LOVE to get my hands on (and my money to) independent films! Where are the distribution ways to support those movies? Again, if I want to get my hands on a European release (that won't even make it to US DVD distribution, because the rights for a Hollywood re-make have been bought up, so no North American has to endure bad European acting... cough), I have to revert to piracy -- or to paying insanely high shipping.

Please - somebody take a look at the complete picture.

When I read the headline, I was rather hoping that our President had a strategy to address pirates off Somalia. But no, he's more worried about giving Mickey Mouse a bodyguard rather than protecting people's lives.

Actually piracy hurts big companies and little companies so the Obama administration's efforts are worthwhile. Anti-piracy initiatives are aimed at protecting all businesses, not just Mickey Mouse et al.

Large studios have various revenue streams they can tap into. Smaller indie filmmakers who don't have the luxury of a theatrical release are dependent on digital sales, ie. DVD and/or VOD. Piracy has a significant effect on all business and/or individuals that create content. Aren't creative content producers just like any other small business in this country--worth protecting dontcha think?

Given that more goods are generated and sold digitally every day, the issue of piracy will continue to grow. It is an important economic issue for everyone and a legitimate concern of the federal government as well. It will only become more of an issue in the future. Political inclinations aside, were the Obama administration to ignore the trends, it's the U.S. economy that would ultimately suffer. I'm sure Ronald Reagan would agree.


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