A White House annual report on Intellectual Property reaffirmed President Obama’s stance on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA): American intellectual property needs to be protected, but SOPA was too broad a bill.
This new report indicates that the White House is willing to support new intellectual property legislation in Congress, but it must meet the administration’s goal of preserving an open Internet.
“Online piracy is a serious problem … The Administration is interested in working with Congress to ensure that these issues are addressed in a manner that takes into account the challenges and opportunities of the Internet and that is consistent with the Administration’s goals and public policy principles,” reads the report from the office of Victoria Espinel, the U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator.
However, the administration also reaffirmed its support for the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA.
“ACTA represents a considerable improvement in international trade norms for effectively combating the global proliferation of commercial-scale counterfeiting and piracy in the 21st Century,” reads the report.
In mid-January, the Obama administration announced it wouldn’t be supporting SOPA in a response to an online We the People petition. Back then, Obama’s team said it would not support “legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”
The White House also used the report to fire a warning shot at state-sponsored digital intellectual property theft — a volley aimed mostly at China. The country was mentioned 223 times throughout the document and got its own chapter, entitled “Administration’s Focus on China.”
The report warned that economic espionage — wherein a country or a foreign-owned business steals intellectual property for its own benefit — “represents a significant cost to victim companies and threaten the economic security of the U.S.”
According to the White House, the Department of Justice and the FBI saw a 29% increase in economic espionage between 2010 and 2011. China has long been considered a hotbed of such intellectual property theft.
It wasn’t all doom-and-gloom, though: the report also highlighted several of the Obama administration’s self-declared successes against intellectual property theft, including:
1. A voluntary agreement between Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and content providers wherein ISPs alert movie and music studios of infringement on peer-to-peer networks.
2. An agreement between credit card and web companies to fight online pharmacies illegally selling counterfeit drugs.
3. U.S. law enforcement’s increased efforts to find and prosecute counterfeiters.
According to the report, of the 270 websites seized by DOJ in 2011, 248 were distributing counterfeit goods and 22 were distributing copyrighted content.
President Obama previously called intellectual property one of America’s greatest exports during a Google+ Hangout, but added that protecting it must be done “in a way that’s consistent with Internet freedom.”
SOPA stalled in Congress after thousands in the tech community rallied in opposition to the bill. On Jan. 18, popular websites including Reddit and Wikipedia went offline for the day to protest the bill, while anti-SOPA rallies were held in New York and elsewhere. Over the course of the day, 2.4 million people tweeted about SOPA, some Congressional websites were overloaded with traffic and seven million people signed Google’s anti-SOPA petition.
BONUS: SOPA and PIPA: How Did We Get Here?
May 12: PIPA introduced
The PROTECT IP Act (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011), better known as PIPA was introduced into the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The act’s goals were described by its sponsors as protecting intellectual property and punishing foreign sites who post copyrighted material. If a site was discovered doing so, the U.S. attorney general could order U.S. based Internet service providers, search engines, payment systems and advertising networks to suspend doing business with the website.
Photo courtesy Mikedish on Flickr
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