Today Show: Are Top Websites in Business with Counterfeiters?

by Paul Hortenstine 02/24/2012 08:01 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

This morning, Jeff Rossen of the “Today” show reported on the techniques cyber criminals use to scam consumers into buying counterfeit products online.  These cyber criminals make billions ripping off Americans by selling counterfeit goods and pirated content, and are increasingly sophisticated in selling their products through popular online search engines and advertising services that make their products appear to be legitimate.  The report also showed how American companies profit from this illegal activity by selling advertising to cyber criminals. 

Here’s the story of one consumer who thought she was buying a real product but unknowingly purchased a counterfeit:

“High school senior Lauren McMillen just wanted to learn Spanish. So her dad went on eBay and spent $200 on what he thought was a never-opened Rosetta Stone software kit. ‘The ad said it was brand new and shrink-wrapped,’ Brian McMillen said. ‘Seemed absolutely legit.’  It arrived and it looked legit, down to the instruction manual, stickers, even inscriptions on the disks. But, Brian said, ‘We tried to install it, and it kept popping up an error message every time you started the product.’  It didn't work because it's a fake. Authorities say some even install viruses on your computer to steal your personal information. ‘It's not just some college kid in their basement putting this together,’ Lauren McMillen said. ‘This is a real business going on, and somebody is making a lot of money off of it.’”

And the counterfeit software came from overseas:

“Part of the problem: Many of these criminals are based in China — out of reach for U.S. authorities. That's where Lauren McMillen's kit came from. After she complained, eBay ultimately gave her a refund.” 

American companies turn a profit by selling advertising to cyber criminals: 

“And some say it's not just the criminals cashing in; it's the popular sites that allow them to advertise. Tom Adams, the CEO of Rosetta Stone, said they've caught Google selling coveted top-of-the-page ad space to more than 1,600 rogue websites peddling fake Rosetta Stone. Here's how it works: You go to Google and type ‘Rosetta Stone’ into the search bar and you get a list of websites — the real one and, on the day the company showed us, many fakes offering discounts. Click on them and they look legit.”

Video of the report is here.

Currently, there is broad agreement among the technology and entertainment industries and between members of Congress and the President that additional tools are needed to target online piracy and counterfeiting.  Everyone should join in a constructive dialogue about a solution to this growing problem that is a danger to consumers and a drag on the economy.

Categories: Content Protection, Policy

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Super Bowl Sweep

by Paul Hortenstine 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.”

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright, Policy

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AFL-CIO in Iowa Backs Legislation to Preserve Jobs and Target Criminals

by Paul Hortenstine 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.

He wrote,

“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.”

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Websites Not Affected by Legislation Go Blackout While Rogue Sites Operate Offshore

by Paul Hortenstine 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. 

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Senator Dodd: Everyone Agrees Something Needs to Be Done about Foreign Criminal Websites

by Paul Hortenstine 01/05/2012 06:54 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Last night, Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA, spoke with Emily Chang on Bloomberg TV’s “Bloomberg West.”  He talked about the importance of Congress acting now to pass legislation to target foreign criminal websites that profit from stolen American goods and content at the cost of American jobs.

He stated that the future of commerce and content on the Internet will be guided by technology companies and the entertainment industry growing together: 

“The Internet has been an incredible asset for people all over the world, creating access to information that was unavailable even a few years ago.  This ought not to be a situation where you have to choose between technology and content. Content needs technology and technology needs content; and these two communities absolutely need each other for the future.”

Senator Dodd also said we should focus on the real problem of foreign criminal websites:

“When you have international criminals, foreign sites stealing the intellectual property, the copyright of businesses, not only the film and television industry but also other industries that have knockoff products being stolen, intellectual property being stolen from aerospace, from things such as bulletproof vests and equipment for firefighters.  This is a serious issue that deserves attention.  I will give the technology industry credit for this. No one is arguing about whether we ought to deal with these rogue criminal foreign sites that steal American jobs and products.  We all understand something needs to be done. We’re now arguing about how best to do this.  And that’s a major breakthrough.”

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright

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Engineer Looks at the Facts on Anti-Piracy Bills

by Paul Hortenstine 12/21/2011 10:42 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act target foreign criminal websites.  They have broad bipartisan support and the rare backing of the AFL-CIO and Chamber of Commerce.   There is nothing new about the techniques of domain blocking used to target criminals in the Stop Online Piracy Act.   They are currently used to protect consumers and combat all kinds of harmful behavior including spam, phishing, malware, viruses, copyright infringement and other forms of Internet crime.  And this is happening without claims of harm to the Internet.   Recently many opponents of the legislation, especially the Stop Online Piracy Act, have made many claims about the technical aspects of the bills.  These claims just do not hold up to the facts.   

George Ou, a respected network engineer who has written extensively on information system security and related topics, addresses these very issues in a recent blog post. He writes:

“Members of the House recently addressed the claims that their bill would allegedly threaten Internet Cybersecurity by offering some amendments.  They made explicit assurances that their proposed bill should not be construed in any way to compromise or impose onerous obstacles to the security of the Internet.  Neither the House nor Senate bills in their original forms made any threatening moves to DNSSEC but this new amendment makes it explicit that there is no intent to impair security operations of DNS.”

Ou also points out Stop Online Piracy Act opponent have offered no evidence of DNS fracturing on the Internet:

“The engineers opposed to DNS Filtering claim is that if courts are allowed to block infringing websites, alternative DNS systems will pop up and replace the Internet’s official DNS service controlled by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and fracture the Internet.  But this speculation of DNS fracturing has been proven wrong by real-world examples.

The Internet’s official IANA controlled DNS already coexists with hundreds of thousands of private DNS services operated by organizations, businesses, governments, and militaries.  Those private DNS services have to coexist because wholesale replacement of the Internet’s DNS service is impractical and there is no reason for infringing website operators to do any different.  When the US courts began seizing rogue websites a few years ago, a web browser plug-in called MAFIAAFire was created to bypass those court blocks by patching in the blocked domain names.  The plugin used the practical and easy method of listing addresses for the blocked domain names but did not attempt to replace the entire IANA DNS service which would have been horrifically challenging.”

Facts Speak for Themselves on Huffington Post Criticism of Stop Online Piracy Act

by Paul Hortenstine 12/15/2011 09:36 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Last night, the Huffington Post used its front page to highlight an article of over 7,000 words that repeated many charges against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act.  The facts speak for themselves.  The legislation is pro-Internet.  It has broad bipartisan support and the rare backing of the AFL-CIO and Chamber of Commerce.  It targets criminal activity, which helps legal commerce.  It goes after foreign criminal websites that are violating current copyright law and preserves American jobs.  It promotes free speech and innovation.  Targeting criminal activity makes the Internet more open and free.

The MPAA’s Michael O’Leary compared criticism of the Stop Online Piracy Act to the facts on the Huffington Post here:

“Piracy puts Americans' jobs at risk; the Stop Online Piracy Act encourages innovation and investment. Protecting intellectual property encourages economic growth.”

And Sandra Aistars of the Copyright Alliance posted about why the OPEN Act falls short for artists and creators.

“While the creative community appreciates the recognition by bill sponsors including Rep. Issa and others that there is a pressing need to address the massive online infringement being carried on by rogue sites, the proposal unfortunately does not provide an effective enforcement tool to artists and creators for a variety of reasons.”

Separately, Senator Chris Dodd wrote about free speech and copyright protections:

“Just as the First Amendment defends Americans' right to create, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 -- the Copyright Clause -- guarantees Americans the ability to protect their creations from those who would steal them.  That is why a nation that prides itself on the free exchange of ideas must also have strong copyright protections for those ideas. Today, such protections make it possible for more than 2.2 million Americans to hold good jobs supported by the content industry.”

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright

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Copyright Protection is Pro-Internet; Choose Targeting Criminals and Preserving Jobs

by Paul Hortenstine 12/12/2011 07:41 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

As the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives considers the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) this week, there is a clear choice between targeting criminals or allowing them to reap profits at the expense of the American economy while preying on consumers through rogue websites.

Content producers want and need the Internet to flourish.  Protecting copyrighted works is pro-Internet and pro-free speech.  Copyright protection laws have allowed the Internet to grow and flourish.  Going after rogue websites that profit from stolen American content and counterfeit goods will make the Internet safer for consumers and preserve American jobs. 

What consumers look for is high quality entertainment that is produced by the content industry.  Content producers and technology companies thrive and grow together when products like movies and television shows are distributed legally via the Internet.  

Many opponents of the legislation have presented a false choice between copyright protection and free speech; content versus technology; Hollywood v. Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, these attacks are a distraction from the real harm caused by rogue websites that are violating current copyright law. 

Stealing is not free speech and is harmful to the Internet.   The Stop Online Piracy Act, like our copyright laws, promotes free speech and rewards creativity.   Every day that Congress does not act rogue websites and companies profiting from these websites continue to reap financial gain at the expense of Americans’ jobs and safety. 

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