Digital Top Stories

US VP talks tough on IP

By | Published on Wednesday 23 June 2010

US Vice President Joe Biden started talking tough about intellectual property yesterday, telling a press conference in Washington “piracy is theft, clean and simple – it’s smash and grab, it ain’t no different than smashing a window at Tiffany’s”.

Biden was speaking to press alongside Victoria Espinel, the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, who has just put together a report making 33 recommendations for how the American government could help IP owners better protect their rights. The Vice President and IP enforcer were due to meet to discuss how those recommendations could become a reality after the press briefing.

Biden was keen to stress that the US government’s latest IP enforcement push wasn’t just designed to help the entertainment industry, adding that Espinel’s report considered measures to stop the distribution of counterfeit goods and the infringement of patents as well as online copyright protection measures. He told reporters: “This is not just about the new ‘Robin Hood’ movie. It’s not just about creative talent, it’s about whether a Kevlar [bulletproof] vest we are putting on some guy works or not”.

But online piracy, the big concern of the movie and music industries, is a key issue Biden and Espinel hope to address. Espinel told copyright owners who are suffering from the boom in online piracy that “help is on the way”.

Two specific measures were discussed regarding online piracy. First, Biden said internet service providers should become more proactive in helping content companies protect their copyrights online, though he didn’t go as far as to say the solution was a three-strikes style system which forces ISPs to tackle file-sharers on behalf of music and film firms.

Second, Biden talked about the international dimension of piracy, something politicians like to do whenever the prospect of tackling piracy issues at home look rather daunting (ie taking on the whole net sector, who will resist any efforts to make them suspend file-sharers). He noted the number of websites outside the US giving illegal access to streams or downloads of US-owned music and films.

He added: “We want to make sure that these countries know we want these sites shut down. We are going to shine a light. If these sites are operating openly in a country that is not taking action, we can make it very public and shine a light on rogue actors. It’s the government’s responsibility to respond”.

Biden’s tough talking was welcomed by the US movie and music industries, though if and how quickly it turns into new laws remains to be seen. And whether, really, any laws can actually stop online piracy such as file-sharing, well, that’s a debate for a less warm morning.