America’s economy is built on creativity and innovation. Too often, these creative works – from movies to music to software to pharmaceuticals – are misappropriated by others for profit, which hurts American jobs and our balance of trade.
This morning, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel, sent to President Obama the 2010 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement (“the Plan”). The Plan represents the first full-fledged articulation of the President’s strategy. The Plan describes the mission and activities of several Cabinet agencies — including the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, and State, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Copyright Office — in preserving the value of intellectual property against piracy and counterfeiting.
In her transmittal letter, Ms. Espinel states, “Our entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and ingenuity are clear comparative advantages for America in the global economy. As such, Americans are global leaders in the production of creative and innovative services and products, including digital content, many of which are dependent on the protection of intellectual property rights. In order to continue to lead, succeed and prosper in the global economy, we must ensure the strong enforcement of American intellectual property rights.”
As leaders in providing high-speed Internet services, we were particularly interested in what the Plan had to say about online piracy of movies, videos, music and other content. We have long believed that voluntary, cooperative industry action to educate consumers against pirating materials, deterring piracy, and directing consumers to legitimate sources of content is in everyone’s best interests.
The Plan supports this kind of action: “The Administration believes that it is essential for the private sector, including content owners, Internet service providers, advertising brokers, payment processors and search engines, to work collaboratively, consistent with the antitrust laws, to address activity that has a negative economic impact and undermines U.S. businesses, and to seek practical and efficient solutions to address infringement. This should be achieved through carefully crafted and balanced agreements. Specifically, the Administration encourages actions by the private sector to effectively address repeated acts of infringement, while preserving the norms of legitimate competition, free speech, fair process and the privacy of users.”
In a White House briefing on the Plan, Vice President Joe Biden also endorsed this kind of approach.
The Plan goes on to note the importance of collaboration with our global trading partners to get at the source of much digital piracy, including trade in pirated downloads and streaming media from foreign websites. The U.S. cannot combat this problem on its own, the Plan observes: “[W]e should also draw attention to progress made by other countries, including their most effective policies and successful law enforcement programs.”
This Plan confirms the importance of a comprehensive approach, involving all relevant branches of government and the appropriate role of the private sector, in the effort to combat the losses to the American economy associated with misappropriation of American creativity. It also confirms the need for a range of strategies, including the possibility of new federal laws. In the copyright area, we appreciate the Plan’s encouragement to the private sector to undertake voluntary, cooperative, effective efforts to reduce online piracy, in ways that are consistent with free speech, an open Internet, and consumers’ rights. We are also pleased that the Administration recognizes that every participant in the Internet ecosystem — from network provider to applications provider to search provider to content provider and beyond — bears a shared responsibility to contribute to a successful campaign against piracy.