June 24, 2014

Watch It!

By Brian Noyes

Countries are being called out for “alarming levels” of online piracy in a new watch list created by a group of Senators and Congressmen who are taking steps to preserve intellectual property rights. Similar in purpose to the USTR Special 301 Priority Watch List, the bi-partisan and bi-cameral International Creativity and Theft-Prevention Caucus revealed its “2014 International Piracy Watch List” this week.

The caucus’s effort brings direct attention to issues in China, Russia, India and Switzerland, while congratulating Italy and the Philippines for “making progress.” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) stated, “while the U.S. is the world’s leader in intellectual property protections, the problem does not stop at our borders. The only way to ensure the full protection of Americans’ creative works is to actively encourage other countries around the globe to enact and enforce strong intellectual property laws.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), one of the caucus’ four co-chairs said the list was started “to alert those who are profiting by stealing the hard work of American creators and the countries helping them that we are paying attention and we expect our trading partners to protect intellectual property rights.”

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) joined Schiff and Goodlatte at the Capitol Hill event with the Ambassador from Italy and representatives from multiple industries to focus attention on the economic impact of copyright and intellectual property, and the need to address theft in the online marketplace. “We should celebrate our country’s continued success producing movies, music, and software, but also must protect these jobs from digital piracy and other forms of theft,” said Whitehouse.

Goodlatte warned of “the loss of billions of dollars in revenue for the U.S. each year and even greater losses to our economy in terms of reduced job growth and exports.” In fact, there is a lot at stake. In a study, the International IP Alliance (IIPA) reported the copyright community generated $1 Trillion to the U. S. economy and creates 5.4 million jobs.

The report also highlights concerns about ad-supported online theft. The caucus has written to leading advertising organizations and encourages them “to study the problem, adopt best practices, and operationalize their commitment to keep advertising off of sites dedicated to theft.” The ad networks have responded that there are “concrete steps currently underway to evaluate ‘digital ad assurance’ technologies.”

The Congressmen also invited the Digital Citizens Alliance to present data from their report, Good Money Gone Bad, stating that “illegal websites can generate enormous profits through the sale of advertising space, frequently to major U.S. companies.”

With major trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership at the forefront of policy makers’ agendas, Senator Hatch concluded with a strong call for action: “The time is ripe for Congress and industry stakeholders to come together with a renewed focus to combat online piracy.”

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