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Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria A. Espinel submitted her first annual report on Feb. 7 and will chair two new advisory committees that were established by President Barack Obama on Feb. 8. These efforts are systematic and broad in scope — a heartening affirmation that the needs of the creative community are receiving significant national attention. The report reviews increased enforcement activity, including the Operation In Our Sites seizures of rogue website domains, and highlights last year's final negotiation of the international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Suggestively, Espinel also tipped an upcoming white paper she expects will be submitted to Congress in the near future proposing ways existing legislation can be changed to improve enforcement. The two committees she will now chair are the Intellectual Property Enforcement Advisory Committee and the Senior Intellectual Property Enforcement Advisory Committee. The general committee was called for in the PRO-IP legislation that created Espinel's position and will comprise representatives of at least nine federal agencies who hold positions that require Senate confirmation. Membership can be expanded within the executive branch, the Register of Copyrights is invited to join, and meaningful subcommittees may be formed at Espinel's direction to support the ongoing development and implementation of the U.S. Joint Strategic Plan for intellectual property enforcement. The senior committee is ordered to convene its first meeting within 90 days and will bring together the heads or their deputies of nine departments — Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, Office of Management and Budget, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, State, and Treasury.
On Feb. 16 the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on "Targeting Websites Dedicated To Stealing American Intellectual Property," seeking input from stakeholders before introducing an updated version of last Congress' Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act legislation. Testimony was provided by Authors Guild President Scott Turow and representatives from Go Daddy, Rosetta Stone, Verizon, and Visa. Turow reiterated the concerns expressed in an op-ed he co-authored in the New York Times on Feb. 14, which said: "Piracy is a lucrative, innovative, global enterprise. Clusters of overseas servers can undermine much of the commercial basis for creative work around the world, offering users the speedy, secret transmission of stolen goods." Google was conspicuously absent and became the target of much criticism because its online advertising service has many infringing websites as customers, using Google's AdSense to both earn revenue and publicize their wares. Committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said, "Inaction is not an option, and we must pass online infringement legislation in this Congress before rogue websites harm more businesses, and result in more lost jobs."
Reflecting the ramped-up pace of online IP enforcement, officials from the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the fourth set of Operation In Our Sites Web domain seizures on Valentine's Day, just weeks after the third set. Dubbed "Operation Broken Hearted," the 18 websites seized by court order each sold counterfeit merchandise, bootlegging the brands Breitling, Burberry, Chanel, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Omega, Patek Philippe, Prada, Rolex, Tiffany & Co., and Timberland. ICE Director John Morton said, "These counterfeits represent a triple threat by delivering shoddy, and sometimes dangerous, goods into commerce, by funding organized criminal activities and by denying Americans good-paying jobs."
On Feb. 15 the International Intellectual Property Alliance — representing seven major content industry associations, including MPAA and RIAA — submitted its annual Special 301 recommendations to the U.S. Trade Representative, suggesting that Spain be elevated to Priority Watch List status among such offenders as China and Russia. RIAA Executive VP, International Neil Turkewitz said, "There are some music markets that have essentially evaporated in the face of government inaction to stem the tide of online theft, perhaps most notably in Spain where the market has decreased by 55 percent over the past five years, and where no new Spanish artist has been capable of breaking into the top 50 for more than two years.... We can, and must, create an environment that cherishes creativity, and which provides incentives for investment in the creation of original cultural materials."
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