02/02/2012 12:50 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Usually, the debate on intellectual property laws focuses on pirated movies and television shows. This leaves out many of the 19 million Americans who rely on the intellectual property industries for their jobs. Intellectual property laws encourage innovation and creativity. Counterfeiting trademarked goods and pirating copyrighted content is stealing that hurts the economy. For example, a large law enforcement operation this week illustrates the importance of trademark protection to the apparel industry and sports leagues, particularly the NFL and Super Bowl merchandise.
In response to counterfeiting of sports leagues’ clothing and merchandise, law enforcement agencies engaged in Operation Fake Sweep. As the Associated Press reported:
“Federal officials say authorities have seized nearly $5 million worth of phony Super Bowl sportswear and merchandise in a nationwide sweep. Officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the results of the four-month investigation Thursday in Indianapolis. Agents targeted stores, flea markets and street vendors that allegedly sold counterfeit game-related sportswear. Fake jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs were among the 42,000 items confiscated in Operation Fake Sweep. Authorities put the total take at more than $4.8 million, up from $3.7 million last year.”
This operation also targeted the copyright infringement of live sports:
“Additionally, Yonjo Quiroa, 28, of Comstock Park, Mich., was arrested Wednesday by special agents with HSI [Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations]. He is charged with one count of criminal infringement of a copyright related to his operation of websites that illegally streamed live sporting event telecasts and pay-per-view events over the Internet. Quiroa operated nine of the 16 streaming websites that were seized, and he operated them from his home in Michigan until yesterday's arrest.”
01/30/2012 12:09 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
The vigorous online piracy debate produced a critical consensus: stopping foreign criminals who profit from stolen creative content and counterfeit goods on their websites is important to protecting jobs and American intellectual property. Doing nothing is an option that has been taken off the table. Each day we fail to act, American jobs are placed at risk and more consumers will face serious dangers on the Internet, including unknowingly purchasing counterfeit products.
The question now is what is the best method to target these foreign criminal websites. We believe the legislation sponsored by Senator Wyden and Representative Issa, the OPEN Act, falls significantly short in targeting foreign criminal websites in several ways.
SEARCH ENGINES ALLOWED TO BE PORTALS TO PIRACY. The OPEN Act denies the International Trade Commission (ITC) the authority they already have today to make search engines block infringing websites. Typically, the ITC can stop infringing material from being imported to the U.S. The OPEN Act omits language that requires search engines, like Google, to block “importation” of a link to foreign rogue websites.
IT TAKES TOO LONG TO GET TO THE CRIMINALS. The OPEN Act re-writes a bureaucratic process instead of relying on experienced enforcement by the Attorney General and U.S. Federal Courts who have been successfully moving against criminal websites for years in the U.S., without any claims of breaking the Internet. This new hurdle – going through the ITC – creates a time consuming and costly method for all copyright holders to go after foreign thieves. The ITC takes an average of 18 months before issuing a final decision in a case.
SMALL BUSINESSES & ARTISTS ARE HURT MOST. The ones who are especially hurt by this new bureaucracy: American artists and small businesses, who will not have the means to come to Washington, DC to cut through the red tape to stop these thieves from stealing their content and goods.
IT DOES NOT PROTECT CONSUMERS. The bill does not contain language to block dangerous goods, such as counterfeit drugs, from the American marketplace. It allows criminal foreign websites to continue to be a threat to American consumers.
01/20/2012 08:14 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
We applaud those leaders in Washington who have chosen to stand with the millions of hard working Americans all across this nation whose livelihoods are threatened by foreign criminal websites designed to steal. As a consequence of failing to act, there will continue to be a safe haven for foreign thieves; American jobs will continue to be lost; and consumers will continue to be exposed to fraudulent and dangerous products peddled by foreign criminals.
With today’s announcement, we hope the dynamics of the conversation can change and become a sincere discussion about how best to protect the millions of American jobs affected by the theft of American intellectual property. The threat posed by these criminal operations has been widely acknowledged by even the most ardent critics. It is incumbent that they now sincerely work with all of us to achieve a meaningful solution to this critically important goal.
01/19/2012 11:43 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Today in the Des Moines Register, Mark Cooper, president of the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, wrote an op-ed in support of rogue sites legislation to preserve American jobs. These bills target crime—thieves who profit from counterfeit American goods and stolen content—and uphold free speech, while popular American websites like Wikipedia and Facebook will not be affected.
“Congress is considering legislation that may seem highly specialized but has the potential to help protect jobs here in Iowa, or deepen our state’s unemployment if it stalls. That’s why union leaders in Iowa and across the United States have joined the fight to win passage of the Senate’s Protect IP Act (S. 968) and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA, H.R. 3261), companion bills that will make it harder to steal American ideas and the jobs they create.”
This legislation is about more than pirated content. It’s also about protecting consumers and public safety employees:
“Counterfeit products present a real harm to Iowa’s public safety employees, as well. For instance, counterfeit firefighting equipment bypasses the strong safety standards and inspections that apply to legitimate goods, posing a serious threat to public safety workers and to the people they protect.”
01/18/2012 12:11 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Today several popular websites, including the Wikipedia English language page, have blacked out their pages in opposition to the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. They are blocking their users while suggesting that these bills, if they become law, would truly black out their sites.
But these websites’ actions rest on the false premise that the legislation would actually target them. Popular websites like Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook would not remotely qualify as the foreign rogue sites targeted by the bills. Senator Leahy and Representative Smith have issued detailed fact sheets on why these websites and social networks are not affected. And both bills ensure that no monitoring or “policing” of users’ activity is required while respecting due process and the First Amendment.
The legislation targets criminals: foreign thieves who profit from pirated content and counterfeit goods. These foreign rogue websites are operating freely today while legitimate American businesses are opposing legislation that would block these criminal websites from the American market.
Google has not blacked out its website but it is also protesting today. Here are the facts about Google: it has more power than any other company or country in blocking searches or websites. It already blocks searches in the United States without claiming censorship. As it states on its policy blog today, “Last year alone we acted on copyright takedown notices for more than 5 million webpages.” Google knows full well that what it already does in the U.S.—and what it would be required to do under the proposed legislation—is not “censorship.”
The real problem is foreign rogue sites that are harmful to consumers and threaten American jobs. Even Google and its allies in the technology community claim to agree that this is a problem. But their actions today show they are in no hurry to fix it.
01/17/2012 13:37 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.
It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.
A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals. It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.
01/14/2012 11:58 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
We welcome the Administration's clear statement that legislation is needed to stop foreign based thieves from stealing the hard work and creativity of millions of American workers. For too long in this debate, those that seek to preserve and profit from the status quo have moved to obstruct reasonable legislation. While many of the elements mentioned in the White House statement are critically important, we believe, as do others in our coalition, that protecting American jobs is important too, particularly in these difficult economic times for our nation. We are pleased that Chairman Leahy and Chairman Smith reiterated yesterday that they too support action. So now it is time to stop the obstruction and move forward on legislation.
Our industry not only fully supports free expression, our livelihood is built upon a vibrant First Amendment - it is the foundation of our industry and we would never support any legislation that would limit this fundamental American right. As had been made clear throughout the legislative consideration of SOPA and the PROTECT-IP Act, neither of these bills implicate free expression but focus solely on illegal conduct, which is not free speech. We agree with Secretary Clinton's recent statement that "There is no contradiction between intellectual property rights protection and enforcement and ensuring freedom of expression on the Internet."
We also share the Administration's desire to encourage innovation. The American businesses that are victimized on a daily basis by global Internet thieves are among the most innovative industries in this nation and we welcome the Administration's support of these American businesses. Every day, American jobs are threatened by thieves from foreign-based rogue websites. This deplorable situation persists because U.S. law enforcement does not have the tools to fight back.
While we agree with the White House that protection against online piracy is vital, that protection must be meaningful to protect the people who have been and will continue to be victimized if legislation is not enacted. Meaningful legislation must include measured and reasonable remedies that include ad brokers, payment processors and search engines. They must be part of a solution that stops theft and protects American consumers.
We applaud the continued leadership in the House and Senate for working to enact common-sense legislation to stop foreign websites from stealing American creativity and jobs. Misinformation simply can't be allowed to replace honest debate, and derail the critically important fight to protect American jobs. We hope the Administration’s role in this debate now will help steer the attention now to what can be accomplished and passed into law to protect American jobs.
On behalf of the 2.2 million Americans whose jobs depend on the film and television industries, we look forward to the Administration playing a constructive role in this process and working with us to pass legislation that will offer real protection for American jobs. The failure to pass meaningful legislation will result in overseas websites continuing to be a safe haven for criminals stealing and profiting from America.
01/12/2012 13:53 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Those who still think the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act aren’t about jobs for hard-working Americans need to read the editorial by Danny L. Thompson, the Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, in today’s Las Vegas Sun.
- Thompson writes: “When foreign websites illegally sell counterfeited intellectual property, they are taking jobs, income and benefits from American workers…The motion picture industry alone employs nearly 7,900 people in Nevada — not just actors, but stage employees, technicians, musicians, writers and many other middle-class workers. And the revenues generated from the film industry’s production in Nevada total more than $90 million each year and $1.2 billion since 2000. Online piracy put this all at risk.”
As Nevada leads the nation in unemployment, Thompson is right to sound the warning that “copyright infringement also extends far beyond film and music.” Thompson is correct in his understanding that SOPA and PROTECT-IP are not solely about movie industry jobs.
- He writes: “Nevada businesses developing software and creative manufacturing technologies are also supporting SOPA and PROTECT-IP to protect their innovations from being stolen and distributed on the Internet. The engineering firm Bechtel Nevada, one of Southern Nevada’s largest nongaming employers with 3,000 employees, and Reno-based gaming developer International Game Technology, employing 2,500 in Reno and 600 in Las Vegas, both support these solutions to protect their intellectual property and the vitality of their businesses.”
Organized labor has been a strong supporter of both SOPA and PROTECT-IP. Organizations like the AFL-CIO understand that our current economic climate demands the preservation of jobs for American workers.