Obama Issues New Anti-Piracy Plan

Obama Ambassador Intrigue - H 2013
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Obama Ambassador Intrigue - H 2013

U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel has released the administration's annual report on IP enforcement.

Among the "action items" noted for the coming year are improving transparency in IP policymaking and international negotiations, improving law enforcement communication with IP stakeholders and educating authors on "fair use."

The latest report provides an overview of recent activity by the administration on the IP front, from trade negotiations to counterfeit crackdowns. It also includes statistics about how departments such as ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the Justice Department have been tackling IP theft. The past year was also one in which Hollywood studios and ISPs enacted voluntary initiatives to discourage piracy -- something noted amid the administration's willingness to foster more cooperation among what it calls the stakeholders. The administration adds that it would like to examine the effectiveness of these voluntary programs.

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On the transparency front, the report indicates the possibility of establishing an advisory group. There's also the promise of maintaining an "open door policy" and regularly publishing the group's efforts through Federal Register notices and other bulletins.

As for enforcement, the administration isn't particularly specific, but talks about the need for federal law enforcement to continue to regularly engage rights-holders. According to statistics published in the report, customs seizures and criminal actions on the IP front are up modestly since President Barack Obama took office. For example, since 2009, the US Attorney’s Offices has filed 178 intellectual property cases against 254 defendants, which is a two percent increase in cases filed and a 14 percent increase in defendants charged compared to the prior year. ICE and Homeland Security initiated 1,251 IP investigations and had 691 arrests last year compared to 730 investigations and 266 arrests in 2009.

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Talking about "fair use," or instances when it is permissible to use the intellectual property of others, the report says that "the Administration believes, and the U.S. Copyright Office agrees, that authors (including visual artists, songwriters, filmmakers, and writers) would benefit from more guidance on the fair use doctrine."

The Copyright Office will soon be publishing "major fair use decisions, including a summary of the holdings and some general questions and observations that may in turn guide those seeking to apply the decisions to their own situations."

Here's the full 2013 Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement, which also includes observations about technology like mobile apps and 3D printing and also looks inward at the way that IP-compliant software and equipment must be ensured throughout the federal government.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner