California Attorney General Supports Stopping Rogue Sites

by Kate Spence 05/23/2011 06:12 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

In a letter addressed to U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member Chuck Grassley and U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member John Conyers, California Attorney General Kamala Harris echoed the sentiments of 42 colleagues who recently threw their collective weight as U.S. Attorneys General behind legislation to quell the network of rogue websites that constitute the online black market.

California, home to both the original tech and movie capitals of the world - Silicon Valley and Hollywood - continues to have one of the largest constituent bases whose jobs rely on the knowledge-based economy.  The state of California maintains its eighth place in the world economy in large part because ingenuity is valued and financial and creative investments are protected.  California has pioneered everything from the green revolution, to the surge in IT development, to biomedical research for curing diseases.  All of these seemingly disparate groups depend on IP protection to secure their investments for future innovation. 

Attorney General Kamala Harris understands that online theft drives a black market that degrades the economic and creative drivers of the state of California.  We appreciate her support for federal legislation to address online theft and applaud her commitment to keep innovators innovating.

Harvard Business Review: ‘Copyright Is Not Dead’

by Ben Sheffner 05/19/2011 09:51 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Good post today at the Harvard Business Review’s blog explaining why “copyright is not dead” (though you already knew that!). Author Anthony Accardo takes on some of the reasons for anti-copyright stance among many in Silicon Valley, including a culture “structurally tied to patent law, not copyright,” the bias of the tech media, and “psychological rationalization”:

If the tech community spent a little more time understanding the business of its supply-chain partner, content owners, we'd see more compromise and fewer unlicensed content plays.

Imagine if the tech giants used their powers of innovation to better detect and control online copyright infringement rather than the bare minimum steps companies such as Google take — omitting an app from the Android market or omitting a few search terms? If they helped take the head out of the bell curve of piracy with some creative innovation, we'd be seeing licenses thrown around to the Googles and the Spotifys of the world.

It would be much easier for content owners to explore innovative suggestions about pricing, distributing free content for promotion, and using distribution technologies such as bitTorrent, if they saw any material steps taken by the tech community to help them, not challenge them, in the copyright arena.

Definitely read the whole thing.

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Senators Encourage Strong IP Protections in New Trade Agreement with Asia-Pacific Nations

by Greg Frazier 05/19/2011 06:37 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

We were glad to see this letter Tuesday from a bipartisan group of 28 U.S. Senators urging President Obama to push for “the highest standards of protection for intellectual property (‘IP’) rights” in a new regional trade agreement (the Trans-Pacific  Partnership Agreement, or TPP) with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.  

Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) led the charge for the letter, which highlights the millions of American jobs that rely on intellectual property and the serious threat posed by content theft. 

The Senators wrote that “while our copyright industries are one of our most vibrant export sectors, they are under attack from rampant and massive online piracy.  These industries are irreparably harmed when technological protection measures are circumvented or when pirated content is streamed over the internet.”

America’s economic future – our trading presence, creative jobs, and financial and creative investments – depend on strong IP protection abroad. As a model for future free trade agreements, setting a clear and enforceable IP precedent for the Asia-Pacific TPP is imperative. 

For the federal and state governments, content theft means lost capital for balancing budgets and providing services, a weakened trading presence and fewer American jobs, and we appreciate these Senators for voicing their deep commitment to protecting American IP and our creative workforce.

Read more in this story from The Hill’s On the Money blog.

Google Says It Won’t Obey Content Theft Laws?

by Howard Gantman 05/18/2011 13:44 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Google went way out on a limb today on content theft – saying it would “fight” laws designed to block rogue websites that display and sell copyrighted material.

Speaking in London earlier today, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt told reporters that “[i]f there is a law that requires DNS [domain name systems, the protocol that allows users to connect to websites], to do X and it’s passed by both houses of congress and signed by the president of the United States and we disagree with it then we would still fight it...If it's a request the answer is we wouldn't do it, if it's a discussion we wouldn't do it.”  UK publication The Guardian first reported Schmidt’s comments here.

We think that’s pretty outrageous, and we’ve said so.  Here’s MPAA’s Michael O’Leary’s full statement in response:

In April, Google senior vice president and general counsel Kent Walker testified before Congress that ‘Google supports developing effective policy and technology tools to combat large-scale commercial infringement.’  That’s exactly what the PROTECT IP Act is designed to do – it creates a narrowly-drawn, carefully constructed solution to the threat to American jobs and America’s economy, a solution that protects and strengthens our right to free speech.   As constitutional law expert Floyd Abrams wrote, ‘[c]opyright violations are not protected by the First Amendment.’

Is Eric Schmidt really suggesting that if Congress passes a law and President Obama signs it, Google wouldn’t follow it?  As an American company respected around the world, it’s unfortunate that, at least according to its executive chairman’s comments, Google seems to think it’s above America’s laws.

We’ve heard this ‘but the law doesn’t apply to me’ argument before – but usually, it comes from content thieves, not a Fortune 500 company.  Google should know better.  And  the notion that China would use a bi-partisan, narrowly tailored bill as a pretext for censorship is laughable, as Google knows, China does what China does.

Sandra Aistars from the Copyright Alliance has also weighed in with a great blog post on this.  One quote:

Perhaps the Google view is that a mere threat of non-compliance will somehow scare off officials eager to defend American creativity and American jobs. But the strident statements smack of corporate imperialism, and – delivered across the Atlantic in London – are a far cry from the tone Google’s General Counsel took while testifying back home in America before the House Judiciary Committee a mere six weeks ago.

CNET is also following this news and includes a quote from an unnamed Google spokesperson that suggests that Schmidt may have stepped out of bounds:

In response to questions from CNET a Google spokesperson issued this statement: “Free expression is an issue we care deeply about and we continue to work closely with Congress to make sure the Protect IP Act will target sites dedicated to piracy while protecting free expression and legitimate sites.”

In Case You Missed It: Senior DOJ Official Says Prosecuting Content Theft Is a Top Priority for the Obama Administration

by Howard Gantman 05/18/2011 06:52 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

We wanted to make sure you saw this speech from the Justice Department’s top official overseeing criminal prosecutions asking manufacturers, law firms, and government agencies to keep up the fight against content theft. 

Addressing the spring conference of the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition last Thursday, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer described the DOJ’s extensive efforts to prevent, investigate, and prosecute intellectual property crimes like counterfeit goods, stolen trade secrets, and illegal copies of movies, music, and TV shows that show up for sale on rogue websites like those targeted in the PROTECT IP Act

“[I]t is not always obvious to people why we devote as many resources as we do to fighting IP crime.  In part, I think that’s because of a misperception that IP crimes are victimless, or that the victims of IP crime don’t really suffer.  Everyone in this room, of course, knows that isn’t true,” he said.  “We know that counterfeit pharmaceuticals and other consumer products can cause serious harm to people; and companies whose trade secrets are stolen or whose goods are counterfeited may be forced to downsize or go out of business, costing individuals their jobs.  Still, stealing a trade secret feels more abstract to most people than stealing a car.  And IP crime is becoming the province of sophisticated, international organized crime groups that are drawn to it because of its perceived low risk and high reward.”

AAG Breuer also reminded his audience that law enforcement can’t stop content theft alone – we all have a role to play:

What can you, the industry leaders whose intellectual property is at risk, do to help?  

The first thing you can do is to continue educating the public about the scourge of IP crime.  The perception that IP crime is a “soft” crime has a counterproductive effect on our efforts, and we need you to help us educate people about the real consequences of these offenses.

Second, we urge you to develop strong internal mechanisms for detecting IP crime with respect to your products and services.  We cannot police the entire global economy, and so we absolutely count on you to detect IP crime as it happens.   Our partnership with all of you must be strong if we are to make real progress.

Finally, let us know what you find.  Just as you would report a burglary in your home, we need you to report the theft of your intellectual property.  When we learn, in real-time, of IP crime, we can act more effectively and aggressively than if we learn about it long after the fact.


Explore our Content Protection page for more on how content theft hurts all of us.

White House Global Cybserspace Strategy Urges Protection Against IP Theft

by Howard Gantman 05/17/2011 15:13 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The White House on Monday announced an International Strategy for Cyberspace, which recognizes that intellectual property theft is a serious challenge to workers and businesses all around the globe, whose products are often stolen and distributed for profit by international criminal enterprises.  As Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told the New York Times: “The effort to build trust in the cyberspace realm is one which should be pushed in capitals around the world.”  We couldn’t agree more.  

The report lists protecting intellectual property, including commercial trade secrets, from theft as one of its top policy priorities:

“The same global networks that power innovation also open up new avenues for industrial espionage and the theft of intellectual property and commercial information. Cyberspace can be used to steal an unprecedented volume of information from businesses, universities, and government agencies; such stolen information and technology can equal billions of dollars of lost value. Individual incidents often go unreported or undetected. Results can range from unfair competition to the bankrupting of entire firms, and the national impact may be orders of magnitude larger. The persistent theft of intellectual property, whether by criminals, foreign firms, or state actors working on their behalf, can erode competitiveness in the global economy, and businesses’ opportunities to innovate. The United States will take measures to identify and respond to such actions to help build an international environment that recognizes such acts as unlawful and impermissible, and hold such actors accountable.”


Full Copy of the Report

Fact Sheet

Attorneys General Urge Action Against Rogue Sites

by Howard Gantman 05/17/2011 15:01 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Forty-two U.S. Attorneys General – from states and territories spanning from Kansas to Hawaii – have written the leaders of the U.S. Senate and House Judiciary Committees, Chairman Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member John Conyers, to support constructing the legislative framework necessary to stem the illegal trafficking of stolen and counterfeit American products online, and thank them for making online content protection a top priority.   Their letter helps demonstrate the critical need for Congress to take action against a growing threat to the millions of American workers and businesses whose jobs, benefits and economic viability are so threatened by the growth of content theft by foreign based rogue websites.

To quote the letter:

“A growing number of rogue websites are based overseas, presenting law enforcement with unique enforcement challenges. We are therefore extremely pleased that in Washington, D.C., both the House and Senate have turned their attention to this major problem. Legislation is needed to disrupt the counterfeiting and pirate business model by cutting those sites off from the American marketplace. This narrowly tailored response to clearly illegal activity would enable effective action against the worst of the worst counterfeiters and pirates online.”

Led by Co-Chairs of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, and NAAG President, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, the letter indicates that the current challenges facing officials tasked with enforcing U.S. laws online are hurdles that must be resolved in order to effectively address the growing cost of online content theft.

Rob McKenna, Washington Attorney General: “Today, the global reach and anonymity of the Internet provides an attractive platform for criminals who capitalize on the theft of intellectual property in search of easy money with little risk of getting caught or punished. That’s why the vast majority of attorneys general across the country joined in this letter to congressional leaders encouraging federal action against rogue websites.”  

Jim Hood, Mississippi Attorney General: “As Co-Chairs of the National Association of Attorneys General's Intellectual Property Theft Committee, we have made it a priority to combat the sale of counterfeit and pirated products. We are encouraged by Congress’ commitment to combating rogue sites and creating a safer, more vibrant Internet marketplace.”

These AGs are joining a chorus of officials urging a crackdown on content theft online to address the proliferation of the black market traffickers disseminating stolen content online. By disrupting their business model and blocking their profit sources, enforcement officials can take the upper hand in stopping these criminals from taking advantage of the anonymous nature of the Internet to flout U.S. law.

DGA's Revamped Website Launches With a New Focus on Internet Theft

by Elizabeth Kaltman 05/17/2011 12:15 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) has launched a beautifully revamped website that includes a new and dynamic section on Internet theft, the DGA’s top legislative priority. Features include latest news, statements, filings and testimonials, as well as thoughtful articles about content theft and its impact on creators in the United States and abroad. In an article entitled “The European Front,” the DGA explores how governments in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, France, and Spain, are responding to widespread digital theft and points to these legislative responses as models for fighting digital theft around the world.

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