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Intellectual Property Enforcement or Witch-hunt?

Recently, the Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy (CACP), a group consisting of heavy-hitting IP stakeholders, such as the Recording Industry Association of America, the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, announced its intent to push for rapid improvements in what it perceives to be universally lax enforcement of U.S. laws protecting IP rights. At a news conference on Thursday, June 14, the CACP, through its Chairman, NBC Universal general counsel Rick Cotton, announced that under this "aggressive, comprehensive" effort, the CACP would seek to increase resources for governmental investigation and enforcement of criminal IP laws, to "reform civil and judicial process" (whatever that means), and to educate consumers.

Generally speaking, few would quarrel with the notion that intellectual property is a valuable and important property interest, fully deserving of strong protection. However, in announcing this new, altruistically-titled "Campaign to Protect America," Mr. Cotton verbally expressed a degree of fanaticism that is, in practice, characteristic of many industry organizations that cite to the public interest to justify their sometimes indiscriminate targeting of alleged IP infringers. Mr. Cotton said:


Our law enforcement resources are seriously misaligned...If you add up all the various kinds of property crimes in this country, everything from theft, to fraud, to burglary, bank-robbing, all of it, it costs the country $16 billion a year. But intellectual property crime runs to hundreds of billions a year.

Never mind the personal stress and often life-long sense of unease that can follow a home invasion or burglary, not to mention a mugging. Never mind the complete financial devastation that can come in the wake of white-collar crimes that lead to the evaporation of a worker's life savings. Never mind the fact that "bank-robbing" often also involves immediate public danger flowing from the use of deadly weapons and, on occasion, subsequent police chases. Clearly, these concerns are trifles compared to the bottom-line cost of IP crimes, and they should not serve to divert our valuable public resources away from the identification, apprehension and prosecution of those who would infringe IP rights. Right?

At least Mr. Cotton was kind enough to limit his generalization to "property crimes."

Statements like these should make clear to any business targeted and accused of "piracy" by organizations such as the BSA or the SIIA that the IP "defenders" are more likely to be interested in making examples of their targets, rather than reaching a solution that truly accounts for all the facts (not the least of which is the usually confusing and even deceptive way that software publishers in particular undertake to license and market their content). If your business has been accused of "pirating" software, it is immensely important that you know whom you are dealing with before you divulge any information or sign any agreement.

A copy of the CACP’s press release can be found here.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 27, 2007 5:14 PM.

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