White House unveils plan to combat online piracy and counterfeit goods

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

Intellectual property enforcement coordinator Victoria Espinel said she was proud to deliver the Administration’s “ambitious” plan to protect Americans from counterfeit and pirated goods at an event in Washington on Tuesday with Vice President Joe Biden and attorney general Eric Holder.

“I have a warning to you, we’re committed to putting you out of business,” Espinel said to software pirates and other producers of counterfeit goods.

Biden was also unequivocal about online piracy being the same as breaking a shop window and stealing something. He said in the past the government has been reluctant to properly 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 six categories of focus and 33 action items in the strategic plan that would significantly improve the government’s prevention, detection and prosecution of intellectual property theft. They include an increased focus on supply chain security and aggressively targeting foreign websites that violate American 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 IP enforcement coordinator. Espinel took office in December.

Business groups and trade associations representing creative industries greeted the announcement with enthusiasm. Rick Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel of NBC Universal praised Espinel for preparing such an exhaustive plan in such a short time frame.

“I think the plan itself is quite comprehensive, and measured and well thought-out,” Cotton 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 & 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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