U.S. President Barack Obama's administration will seek to aggressively enforce its intellectual property laws by putting pressure on countries that don't shut down piracy Web sites and by requiring all government contractors to check for illegal software, the White House announced.
The White House Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, in a 65-page report released Tuesday, said the U.S. government will also step up its efforts to identify foreign Web sites trafficking in pirated goods and will create a database of intellectual property investigations to be shared among law enforcement agencies.
The U.S. government will also seek to protect U.S. intellectual property (IP) through trade agreements, including the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, the report said. Several digital rights groups have complained that officials from the U.S. and other countries have drafted ACTA in secret.
"I say to those that are suffering from infringement, 'Help is on the way,'" said Victoria Espinel, the White House intellectual property enforcement coordinator. "We understand the problems that you face, and we will work to make things better."
Copyright pirates and counterfeiters should beware, Espinel added during a news conference. "To those who have, for too long, abused the rights of American creators, I have a warning for you," she said. "We are committed to putting you out of business."
Vice President Joe Biden compared IP infringement to a theft where a burglar breaks the window of a store and steals the products inside. "Piracy is theft, clean and simple," he said. "It's smash and grab."
Counterfeit medications and vehicle parts are dangerous and need to be kept out of the U.S., Biden added. "We just want to make it real clear," he said. "We're going after people, we're going after the Web sites, we're going to go after those folks ... who sell us things that in fact have the effect of putting the lives of Americans in jeopardy."
If other governments fail to shut down Web sites that U.S. officials have identified as dealing in pirated goods, the White House will be vocal, Biden said. "We're going to be as public as we possibly can" about other governments that do not cooperate, he said.
The U.S. government will also provide training to local and state law enforcement officials on IP enforcement, and it will provide seminars and training programs for foreign governments, according to the new report. The report recommends new requirements that medical products contain electronic tags to make it more difficult for counterfeit products to be sold.
The report, called the Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, also encouraged Web content owners, Internet service providers, advertisers and other online businesses to work together to reduce copyright violations.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice launched an IP enforcement task force, and in April, the agency announced 15 new assistant U.S. attorney positions and 20 new Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to be focused on domestic and international IP crimes.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), a tech trade group, both praised the new report.
"Stated simply, globally-recognized IP enforcement standards will play a significant role in creating new jobs and driving growth well into the future," Dean Garfield, ITI's president and CEO, said in a statement.
But the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), another tech trade group, said it had major questions about the new IP enforcement efforts. The White House's IP efforts should focus on keeping dangerous products away from consumers and should take care not to hurt the U.S. Internet and tech industries, CCIA said.
"A proper enforcement strategy would ensure that legitimate innovation is not being squashed by an overly broad, overly zealous crackdown," CCIA president and CEO Ed Black said in a statement. "Balanced intellectual property will promote innovation, investment, and civic discourse, while ensuring that intellectual property rightsholders are fairly treated."
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantusG. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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