White House Proposes New Measures to Combat IP Theft
The U.S. government is aiming to strengthen its voluntary, private-sector approach to combating online piracy and protecting intellectual property, bringing rights holders and other private-sector entities to the table, according to the “2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement” [PDF], released Thursday.
The plan builds on the White House’s 2010 plan, which started the movement toward voluntary enforcement for IP theft. Since that plan was adopted, Internet service providers, credit card companies, and advertising networks have come together voluntarily to help prevent consumers from accessing infringing material.
Starting in 2013, the Obama Administration will bolster these strategies by reaching out to private-sector entities that have not yet signed onto the earlier enforcement plan, including domain name registries, search engines, cyberlockers, and other types of digital storage services. Additionally, the plan calls for working with rights holders to adopt a set of best-practices guidelines as they navigate the voluntary enforcement framework.
By including the rights holders in the process, U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel says these voluntary enforcement measures will work more efficiently and better protect intellectual property rights. Espinel led a rollout of the new strategy on a Thursday conference call.
“Rights holders have a critical role to play,” the report says. “Voluntary initiatives will be most effective and efficient if all stakeholders are working together cooperatively.”
This non-regulatory approach to protecting IP comes in the wake of the 2011 Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act, pieces of legislation that were proposed in both the House and Senate. These proposed (but never passed) regulations would have required ISPs to block access to infringing websites, bar advertising networks from conducting business with these sites, and prevented search engines from linking to infringers.
To build the strength of voluntary initiatives, the IPEC will begin assessing their effectiveness once they have been implemented by soliciting input from the public and other parts of the government.
“The administration is supportive of the voluntary initiatives,” Espinel said during the conference call. “It is very important to us to know that the voluntary initiatives we’ve encouraged are having a positive impact, that they are working well, that they are not unduly burdensome. While we remain optimistic that voluntary initiatives can have a positive impact on enforcement, it’s important that we know that.”
The Motion Picture Association of America’s CEO and chairman, former Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, released a statement praising the report, especially the educational measures and voluntary enforcement measures that the IPEC will implement. The MPAA has vigorously defended copyright claims in an effort to prevent online piracy of movies.
“We share with this Administration a commitment to promoting and protecting American intellectual property by opening new markets to U.S. products, educating the public about both the value of IP industries and the damage done by theft from those industries, and encouraging voluntary best practices among private sector companies that have key responsibilities in the internet landscape,” Dodd said.
Another strategy that the IPEC hopes to pursue is encouraging the growth of legitimate alternatives for accessing works. In the report, IPEC said it would facilitate the development of copyright registries and online databases, micro-licensing arrangements, and other market-driven mechanisms.
“With respect to the online environment, the Administration believes that when Americans and people around the world are given real choices between legal and illegal options, the vast majority will want to choose the legal option,” the introduction to the report states. “Accordingly, we encourage the further development and use of legitimate online services as an important part of an effective approach to reducing infringing activity.”