Obama-Biden on IP
Do IP lawyers and other aficionados of the abstract estate vote for presidential candidates based on their IP policies? That would be sick. But if you want to factor that into your choice, I’ve blogged somewhat about the present President’s IP enforcement policies (hint: which candidate does Hollywood support?) (right?) a number of times.
A good, up-to-date treatment of at least one aspect of the Obama Administration’s IP policy would be this piece by Joe Satran. Excerpt:
On Aug. 28, the Republican Party announced it had included language about Internet freedom and intellectual property protection in its 2012 platform, becoming the first major party to do so. Former Sen. Chris Dodd, now head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), swiftly came out in support. A week later, the Democratic Party became the second party to do so when it revealed it had included even more strident language about the value of IP in the digital age. Dodd endorsed the Democratic platform as well.
You’d never think that IP protection was a radioactive political issue barely eight months ago. Back in January 2012, President Barack Obama seemed to oppose harsh penalties for digital piracy of copyrighted movies and music. He came out against two hotly debated anti-piracy bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), helping to secure their defeat in the Senate and House. And it just so happens that January 2012 was the only month in which most Americans were paying attention to IP issues, so many people got a false impression of his administration’s views on the matter. . . .
President Obama [had earlier] appointed IP lawyer Victoria Espinel as the first-ever intellectual property enforcement coordinator. Espinel, who had earlier served as the chief U.S. trade official for IP issues, got to work quickly. Just days after she took office in December 2009, she convened a large meeting of government officials and representatives from companies in IP-intensive industries, especially the entertainment business, at the White House.
“At this huge meeting, the vice president himself said to all these IP stakeholders, ‘I want to hear from you. I want to know what your problems are. I want to know what the government can do to assist you,'” Jean Bonilla, director of the State Department’s Office of International Intellectual Property Enforcement, told The Huffington Post.
Vice President Joe Biden’s appearance at that meeting was no anomaly. As a senator, he had been known for vigorous advocacy of strong IP protections; he was the co-founder of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus and a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which handles copyright issues and interacts frequently with lobbyists from the entertainment industry. “You’d be hard-pressed to find someone on that committee who isn’t a strong supporter of IP protections,” said Gigi Sohn, the president of Public Knowledge, which advocates for “balanced copyright policies that benefit creators and users.” . . .
The most visible product of their work has been a significant increase in the criminal enforcement of copyright infringement protections. While copyright enforcement has traditionally been handled by private-sector rights holders bringing civil lawsuits, Obama’s Justice Department has made IP enforcement a priority, nearly doubling the number of lawyers and FBI agents assigned to it. . . . The crown jewel of the crackdown has been a series of domain name seizures known as “Operation in Our Sites.”
The mission, which the IPR Center launched in 2010, has resulted in the seizure of 839 websites so far, most of which sold counterfeit apparel or broadcasted illegally streamed movies and music. San Francisco-based IP lawyer Andrew Bridges, who has represented the owners of domain names seized by Operation in Our Sites, questions the Justice Department’s legal justification for the mission. “It’s a huge stretch based on the Pro-IP Act, which allows for the seizure of property used in the manufacturing or trafficking of articles in violation of copyright law,” Bridges argued. “Articles, in that case, are physical objects, and a blog doesn’t manufacture or traffic in physical objects.”
Anyway, there’s a lot to think and talk about here. More to come.