Obama administration steps up anti-piracy plan

Wed Jun 23, 2010 12:54am EDT
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By Alex Ben Block

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The feds are finally getting serious about piracy.

The Obama administration on Tuesday announced the first-ever strategic plan on intellectual property enforcement, which is intended to both boost and better coordinate efforts to stop piracy at home and abroad, online and through physical sales for American products including movies, TV shows, video games, computer software, pharmaceuticals, counterfeit goods and more.

"To state it very bluntly, piracy hurts," Vice President Joe Biden said at a White House announcement. "It hurts our economy, our health and our safety."

Joining Biden for the announcement of a coordinated program across all federal agencies, worldwide, was a group including attorney general Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, U.S. Trade Rep Ron Kirk and Victoria Espinel, who was appointed in September as the first Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.

Espinel was required under a law passed in October 2008 to prepare a report on enforcement of intellectual property laws, which was released Tuesday. It includes efforts to boost enforcement by the FBI, the State Department, the Library of Congress and many others.

According to the report, motion picture and video piracy cost the U.S. economy $20.5 billion annually in lost output, $5.5 billion annual in lost earnings for U.S. workers and 141,030 jobs that would otherwise have been created. As a result, governments at all levels are deprived of $837 million annually in lost tax revenue.

Holder outlined a reorganization of the entire Justice Department for this fight and creation of a task force, as well as hiring 15 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys and 20 FBI special agents dedicated to combating domestic and international IP property crimes.

The report said that in May, two people were sentenced to prison for up to 10 years for operating a counterfeit DVD import and export business in the Philippines and for sale through websites. It also reports that this year three pirates were found guilty of conspiracy under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of trying to sell illegal boxes to receive Dish Network, in a scheme that they estimate would have resulted in more than $100 million in losses.

In May, the Justice Department launched Operation Global Hoax as a multinational effort to crack down on pirated movie and music products. In July they will coordinate the effort with 35 countries. So far this year the department has launched more than 150 new investigations that involve all areas of piracy. Espinel warned pirates: "We're committed to putting you out of business."