White House Unveils Plan To Combat Online Piracy And Counterfeit Goods

The Hill
The White House rolled out an expansive new strategy Tuesday to combat online piracy and counterfeit goods.

“I have a warning to you, we’re committed to putting you out of business,” Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, also known as the “copyright czar,” said, as if she were addressing software pirates and other makers of counterfeit items.

Espinel delivered the administration’s “ambitious” plan to protect Americans from counterfeit and pirated goods at an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Biden was unequivocal about online piracy being the same as breaking a shop window and stealing something. He said that in the past, the government has been reluctant to label piracy as theft — but no longer.

“To state it very bluntly, piracy hurts. It hurts our economy, our health and our safety,” Biden said. “There’s a reason why they counterfeit, they don’t know how to do it in the first place.”

Espinel outlined how the plan aims to improve the government’s prevention, detection and prosecution of intellectual property theft. It includes an increased focus on supply chain security and the targeting of foreign websites that violate U.S. intellectual property rights.

The plan also emphasizes reducing the number of counterfeit goods purchased by the government and federal contractors. Biden cited counterfeit Kevlar vests purchased for military personnel in Afghanistan and law enforcement officials as evidence of the gravity of detecting fake goods.

The plan was mandated by the October 2008 Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act (PRO-IP Act), which also created the position of intellectual property enforcement coordinator. Espinel took office in December.

Business groups and trade associations representing creative industries welcomed the announcement.

“I think the plan itself is quite comprehensive, and measured and well thought-out,” Rick Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel of NBC Universal, said. “I also think it’s quite historic in terms of … protecting U.S. jobs by protecting U.S. creativity, innovation and technical innovation, which are what drive the American economy.”

“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,” said David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center.

“The national strategy, the first of its kind, will defend America’s intellectual property by cracking down on the counterfeiting and piracy that are killing jobs, harming consumers, and stunting our economic recovery.”

The plan also includes specific enforcement responsibilities for agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice. Each will get additional personnel and resources to detect and prosecute intellectual property theft.

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