U.S. Unveils Plan to Fight Intellectual Property Piracy

Agence France Presse
The United States unveiled a wide-ranging strategic plan on Tuesday protect intellectual property from pharmaceuticals to films and pledged to confront governments that fail to crack down on piracy.

“Piracy hurts, it hurts our economy,” Vice-President Joe Biden said in releasing the 61-page plan drafted by several government agencies.

“It hurts our health and safety. We need to protect our citizens from unsafe products [such as] counterfeit pharmaceuticals.”

The initiative aims to crack down on websites that allow illegal downloads of films or music, to “lead by example” in curbing use of pirated software or goods at home, and according to Mr. Biden, to “shine a light” on governments that fail to stop piracy.

Victoria Espinel, co-ordinator of the intellectual property task force, said China — which has long been singled out for allowing piracy of software, music and other goods — would remain under close scrutiny for copyright and patent protection.

“We will initiate a comprehensive review of current efforts in support of U.S. businesses that have difficulty enforcing their intellectual property rights in overseas markets, with a particular focus on China,” she said.

The plan underscores U.S. efforts to protect U.S. products and service from piracy, citing the range of vulnerable items such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, software, films and music.

“Piracy is theft, clean and simple, it’s smash and grab,” Mr. Biden said. “Theft in every culture should be punished, and intellectual property is no different.”

The plan was developed by a several government agencies including the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State, Commerce, Agriculture, Health and Human Services along with the White House and U.S. Trade Representative’s office.

The plan represents a stepped-up effort to crack down on fake or illegally copied goods that could include bulletproof vests, medicines, auto parts or creative works.

“Whether we are talking about fake Kevlar vests … or a bolt that fails on an airplane engine, we cannot afford to purchase fake goods. This is not just about the new Robin Hood movie,” said Mr. Biden.

“Perhaps our greatest export … is America’s creative impulse … and criminals are working every day, every day to steal it.”

The initiative was hailed by a wide range of industry groups including the Motion Picture Association of America, Recording Industry Association of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“This plan is an important step forward 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,” said Bob Pisano, president and interim chief executive of the MPAA.

“More than 2.4 million people work in the motion picture and television industry alone, in states all across the nation, earning over US$41-billion in wages. These are creative, good-paying jobs — including costume designers, truck drivers, stage crews, actors, architects, directors and accountants, who face a relentless challenge to their livelihoods from intellectual property theft.”

RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol called the report “a welcome step toward reversing the dangerous trajectory that has endangered America’s creative community.”

David Hirschmann of the U.S. Chamber called the move “a historic and very meaningful step towards fighting intellectual property theft worldwide, standing up for American workers, innovators, creators, and the 18 million American jobs that directly rely on the protection of IP rights.”

“The theft of virtually everything Americans make, create, and innovate has been facilitated by the lack of a comprehensive government strategy to put these thieves out of business,” he said.

But Ed Black of the Computer & Communications Industry Association warned against overzealous enforcement of copyrights that could impede certain kinds of “fair use.”

“A proper enforcement strategy would ensure that legitimate innovation is not being squashed by an overly broad, overly zealous crackdown,” Mr. Black said.

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