Plan aims to stop sales of counterfeit and pirated goods

The United States will go after foreign websites that pirate American music and movies as part of a new national strategy to stop sales of counterfeit and pirated goods, Vice President Joe Biden said on Tuesday.

“This is theft, clear and simple,” Biden said at a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other Cabinet officials to discuss the new strategy, which also includes steps to reduce piracy and counterfeiting within the United States.

“It’s ‘smash and grab,’ no different than a guy walking down Fifth Avenue and smashing the window at Tiffany’s and reaching in and grabbing what’s in the window,” Biden said, referring to the jewelry store in New York City.

U.S. businesses estimate they lose billions of dollars annually due to piracy and counterfeiting of items including films, music and consumer goods, and blame the illegal trade for U.S. job losses as well.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office has battled to close websites in Russia, China and other countries that sell pirated American music and films.

Biden said the United States would exert increased pressure on foreign governments to shut down the sites by “being as public as we possibly can” about illegal activity.

“As we shine the spotlight on foreign governments that have rogue actors doing illicit business within their borders, it’s the government’s responsibility to respond,” Biden said.

Biden did not mention any foreign websites by name. A recent USTR report said China’s top Internet search firm, Baidu Inc (BIDU.O), was associated with between 50 percent to 75 percent of illegal music downloads in China.

Several Russian websites still provide illegal downloads, even though the most notorious and formerly largest site, Allofmp3, was shut down in 2007, the USTR report said.

U.S. business groups welcomed the plan, which was mandated by Congress in 2008 and also includes steps to ensure that the federal government does not purchase counterfeit goods.

Biden framed that issue as a matter of both safety and national security, noting the risk of sending soldiers into combat with counterfeit Kevlar vests.

The strategy also includes new steps aimed at stopping the importation of counterfeit goods ranging from toothpaste and clothing to auto parts to medicine.

“The theft of virtually everything Americans make, create and innovate has been facilitated by the the lack of a comprehensive strategy to put these thieves out of business,” David Hirschman, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, said in a statement welcoming Biden’s announcement.

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