White House Unveils Intellectual Property Enforcement Plan

Broadcasting & Cable
The White House unveiled on June 22 its first strategic plan for cracking down on intellectual property theft, including the pirating of TV shows, movies, and other online content. The plan was unveiled by Victoria Espinel, the first Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (a position created by the Pro-IP Act), and the initial reviews are good.

The government plan (click here to view the full document) includes: 1) not mistakenly using illegal products itself; 2) transparency in policy development and sharing info; 3) improved coordination; 4) better enforcement of property rights globally, including more help for businesses trying to enforce their IP rights abroad; 5) securing the supply chain, including tackling foreign-based Web sites that offer pirated content; 6) spend its IP enforcement momey wisely.

The reaction to the plan, which was released in a press conference headlined by Vice President Joe Biden, was positive from both studios and the fair-use proponents who are on the other side of the rope in the tug-of-war over the balance between protecting copyrights and fair use. On this day, both sides agreed Espinel’s plan was headed in the right direction.

Fair-use advocates Public knowledge praised what it said was Espinel’s balance in approaching IP protection and fair-use protection, something Public knowledge President Gigi Sohn said others in the administration lack. “Her findings show that she understands the concept of balance in copyright law at a time when others in the Administration do not,” said Sohn.

Motion Picture Association of America President Bob Pisano called the plan an “important step forward in combating intellectual property theft.”

Rick Cotton, EVP and general counsel at NBC Universal and chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce cross-sector Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy (CACP), agreed that there needed to be a balance and that the plan reflected that.

“I think, overall, this is a very carefully constructed, measured and thoughtful set of recommendations. In that sense, the report is very balanced and very well thought out, which actually is what I think this administration aspires to.”

He said that talking about digital theft on the Internet meant whole moves, TV shows, books or pieces of music. That is the problem, he said, rather than mash-ups, parodies or clips. “All of the enforcement steps need to respect other values, like free access, fair use, privacy, and I think the report recognizes the need for that balance.”

With respect to the plan’s direct impact on film and TV piracy and the broad creative industries, he says the takeaway is that the importance of IP enforcement is being put in a broader context. “This is not a single-sector issue,” he says. “I think there are three parts of the plan that are critical to the TV and film business: 1) the “hugely enhanced” cooperative enforcement activities in the U.S. between federal state and local governments; 2) the emphasis on the pursuit of foreign pirate Web sites and seeking cooperative international enforcement against them; and 3) the emphasis on the supply chain and cooperative action to reduce digital piracy online, which he called “an important call to action.”

Cotton said the Vice President “hit the nail on the head” when he said broad consensus and cooperation are key, and added that business and law enforcement are on the same page when it comes to protecting U.S. jobs.

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