Sunday, December 28, 2008

Who Will Be The New IP Czar?

Now that President-Elect Obama has finished selecting his cabinet, he can turn to the only decision any self-respecting copyright attorney cares about: who will be the new IP Czar?

As background, earlier this year the Congress passed, and on Oct. 13 President Bush signed into law, the "PRO-IP Act." The new statute includes a grab-bag of provisions to enhance federal enforcement of copyright and related laws. Among the most discussed is the creation in Section 301 of a new position in the White House known as the "Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator" -- the "IP Czar." The Czar's duties include coordinating IP enforcement policy among various agencies (Department of Justice, Commerce, State, US Trade Representative, etc.), though the statute is explicit that he/she "may not control or direct any law enforcement agency, including the Department of Justice, in the exercise of its investigative or prosecutorial authority." (A similar position already exists in the Department of Commerce; presumably moving it to the White House will give it more prominence and authority.)

So who's it going to be? Speculation is ... not exactly running wild. But there is some. Here's the long list, pieced together from this article originally published in Billboard, and this one from National Journal:
  • Hal Ponder, a lobbyist for the American Federation of Musicians
  • Michelle Ballantyne, a lobbyist for the RIAA who previously worked for Tom Daschle on the Hill and in the Clinton White House
  • Victoria Espinel, policy advisor at USTR
  • Bill Ivey, who now heads the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University and who previously worked in the country music industry
  • Neil MacBride, Vice President, Anti-Piracy and General Counsel at the Business Software Alliance and a former staffer to Sen. Joe Biden (who has a very pro-IP record)
  • Jennifer Duck, a staffer for Sen. Dianne Feinstein who serves as Chief Counsel and Staff Director for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security
  • Alec French, a lobbyist for NBC Universal and former Hill staffer on IP issues
  • Shira Perlmutter, currently head of Global Legal Policy for The International Federation for the Phonographic Industry ("IFPI"), the international version of the RIAA
  • Jayme Roth, a staffer for Sen. Evan Bayh
  • Shanna Winters, a staffer to Rep. Howard Berman, where she serves as chief counsel to the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.
A couple points:

1) While I'm not familiar with all of these people's records, at first glance this list seems to be extremely favorable to copyright owners. Extremely. Virtually all have either worked for media companies, their trade associations, or for members of Congress who favor strong copyright protection. Not a copyleftist among them. I'm somewhat surprised, given that uber-copyleftist Larry Lessig, copyright owners' chief academic antagonist, played a role in crafting the Obama's campaign technology policy, which itself contained some code words ("we need to update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote civic discourse, innovation and investment") that made copyright owners a bit nervous. In announcing his support for Obama and discussing tech policy, Lessig wrote:

After the debacle that is the last 7 years, the duty is upon the Democrats to be something different. I've been wildly critical of their sameness (remember "Dems to the Net: Go to hell" which earned me lots of friends in the Democratic party). I would give my left arm to be able to celebrate their difference. This man, Mr. Obama, would be that difference.
Curious how Lessig feels when he sees this list of potential IP Czar nominees. Maybe like the Iraq War opponents, gay-rights supporters, and mass-transit advocates grumbling that this is not quite the change they believed in.

2) Lots of lobbyists! Wait a sec -- weren't things supposed to be different? Not so much. According to the Exclusive Rights blog, which has done yeoman's work on this topic, Ballantyne, French, MacBride, Perlmutter, and Ponder are all registered lobbyists. Exclusive Rights thinks there is "more than enough wiggle room for Mr. Obama to claim compliance with his campaign promise while still selecting an RIAA affiliated appointee." Maybe. But are his supporters among the copyleft and the good government groups really such cheap dates?

Other names? Anyone moving up or down the list? Let me know in the comments or at

1 comment:

  1. Obama to appoint new IP czar soon?


Comments here are moderated. I appreciate substantive comments, whether or not they agree with what I've written. Stay on topic, and be civil. Comments that contain name-calling, personal attacks, or the like will be rejected. If you want to rant about how evil the RIAA and MPAA are, and how entertainment companies' employees and attorneys are bad people, there are plenty of other places for you to go.