Tuesday, February 23, 2010

IP Czar to public: Give me your ideas for IP enforcement

Victoria Espinel, the newly-confirmed White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator -- aka "IP Czar" -- is asking the public for input on the costs of infringement, and how best to combat it. In a notice published today in the Federal Register, Espinel, whose position was created by the 2008 PRO-IP Act, seeks written submissions on two topics: 1) "the costs to the U.S. economy resulting from intellectual property violations, and the threats to public health and safety created by infringement"; and 2) "recommendations from the public regarding the objectives and content of the Joint Strategic Plan and other specific recommendations for improving the Government’s intellectual property enforcement efforts." The "Joint Strategic Plan" is itself mandated by Section 303 of the PRO-IP Act, which passed the House 410-11 and by unanimous consent in the Senate, and was signed into law by then-President Bush on October 13, 2008. Submissions are due March 24, and should be sent to intellectualproperty@omb.eop.gov.

Today on the White House blog, Espinel introduced herself and the goals she has for her office:

Intellectual Property and Risks to the Public

Hi, I am Victoria Espinel, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. I am honored to have been appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve in this new position created by Congress in the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008. Given the unique nature of this job, I’d like to describe what I’m doing in my office and how we want to engage the public to get input on what we, as a government, should be doing.

While talking about our global competitive advantage at a recent town hall meeting in Ohio, the President said, “One of the problems that we have had is insufficient protection for intellectual property rights”–and it is important that our ideas are protected. In December 2009, the Vice President, joined by Cabinet members and other senior government officials, held a roundtable discussion to emphasize the Administration’s commitment to enforcing laws against intellectual property theft.

Intellectual property are the ideas behind inventions, the artistry that goes into books and music, and the logos of companies whose brands we have come to trust. My job is to help protect the ideas and creativity of the American public. One of the reasons that I care about this is because I believe it is enormously important that the United States remain a global leader in these forms of innovation – and part of how we do that is by appropriately protecting our intellectual property. Our intellectual property represents the hard work, creativity, resourcefulness, investment and ingenuity of the American public. Infringement of intellectual property can hurt our economy and can undermine U.S. jobs. Infringement also reduces our markets overseas and hurts our ability to export our products. Counterfeit products can pose a significant threat to the health and safety of us all. Imagine learning that the toothpaste you and your family have used for years contains a dangerous chemical. U.S. Customs officials have seized several shipments of counterfeit toothpaste containing a dangerous amount of diethylene glycol, a chemical used in brake fluid, and that in sufficient doses is believed to cause kidney failure. All of these are reasons why your government has renewed its efforts to challenge this illegal activity.

My job is to help coordinate the work of the federal agencies that are involved with stopping this illegal behavior. We are going to work together to develop a strategy to reduce those risks to the public, the costs to our economy and to help protect the ingenuity and creativity of Americans. We want to be able to reduce the number of infringing goods in the United States and abroad. The examples are almost endless: counterfeit car parts, illegal software, pirated video games, knockoff consumer goods, dangerous counterfeit medicines, and many other types of products – including very sophisticated technology. Our goal is to better use taxpayer dollars and other government resources to be more effective in reducing any threat to our economy and our safety.

To further these goals, we are working to find ways of measuring these threats and their impact on us. How many jobs depend on the existence of intellectual property? What are the greatest risks to health and safety? We need better data on these questions and it is part of my job to figure out what the answers are. We cannot do that without your help. So, my office is asking the public to give us information about the costs and the risks – and then give us suggestions for what we could be doing better as a government. As a first step, we are issuing a notice to the public asking for your input. Here’s a link to this request (pdf). You can send your comments to intellectualproperty@omb.eop.gov. We look forward to hearing from you.


  1. The RIAA and MPAA et al are not bad people. But they are pursuing the wrong strategy. The purpose of copyright is to encourage the creation of useful works, not to provide nearly endless financial remuneration to purchasers of rights.

    Currently, there is much debate as to whether the current regime of intellectual property fulfills this role. Many of us are unconvinced, including creators of useful property who choose to give away copies of their work for "free" -- though they do receive credit, attribution, and yes, often paying customers.

    Regardless, many of us do not believe that enforcing the copyrights of the big-money non-creators is always a good thing.

  2. Make everything public domain. The greatest work of all mankind, the "Mandrill Maze" is in public domain and so should everything lesser than it.

    Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMc4Lcxmmso

  3. Make it easier to pay for things. It would rock if we had a universal registry of IP rights so that you can buy the 'serial' of some intellectual property at various levels quickly and easily. Level 1 is personal access allowing you to enjoy it yourself in private, Level 2 is performance access, allowing you to enjoy it for friends or play it as part of a public event, Level 3 is production access, allowing you to modify and distribute it with your own product/service, and Level 4 is full IP ownership, where you can sell the original for a profit--each level containing its own associated costs determined by the Level 4 Seller and tempered with market regulations (to prevent the loss of an intellectual property from human history altogether!)

    This would work for ALL digital media! Games, movies, books, music! Everybody who needs to get paid gets paid, everybody who wants something gets it conveniently. The fewer barriers there are, the more likely it will be for people to show their appreciation for a piece of IP by actually paying for it. My gods, if I had a quick, easy way to simply pay Wierd Al Yankovic for all the parodies of his I used to have back in 2000, I'd have just DONE IT, and then if someone confronted me, I'd be able to point out my profile in the Universal Intellectual Property Registry and point out the serial number of the disputed item. It would be so easy to load up my digital media devices and organize my certs! Man, I would love that.

    There's lots of music, FURTHERMORE, that artists have offered for free that I WANT to pay them for! This would make that easy too. Jacob Kaufman, who goes by the name Virt in various online communities, is an excellent video game soundtrack composer whose works have a special place in my heart, and he doesn't have a paypal link on his site. Furthermore, if I had an official place to show exactly how much I contributed in reverence to his TRULY EPIC IP, I totally FREAKIN' WOULD :D

    Please give it some thought <3

  4. The initial goals are great for corporations. However, what is this department's goals towards individual artists whose creative works are infringed upon by major US corporations?


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.