US Unveils Strategy To Fight Piracy Of Intellectual Property

The United States unveiled Tuesday a wide-ranging strategic plan 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 Biden, to “shine a light” on governments that fail to stop piracy.

Victoria Espinel, coordinator 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 US businesses that have difficulty enforcing their intellectual property rights in overseas markets, with a particular focus on China,” she said.

The plan underscores US efforts to protect US 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,” 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 US 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 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 US 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 41 billion dollars 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 US 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,” Black said.

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