U.S. To Target Music, Movie Piracy

Vice President Joe Biden announced Tuesday (6/22) that the United States will target foreign websites that pirate American music and movies. It’s all part of a new national strategy to reduce intellectual property theft.

“This is theft, clear and simple,” Biden said at a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other Cabinet officials to discuss the new strategy, which also includes steps to reduce piracy and counterfeiting within the United States. “It’s ‘smash and grab,’ no different than a guy walking down Fifth Avenue and smashing the window at Tiffany’s and reaching in and grabbing what’s in the window.”

U.S. businesses estimate losses of billions of dollars annually due to piracy and counterfeiting of films, music and consumer goods, and blame the illegal trade for U.S. job losses as well. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office has battled to close websites in Russia, China and other countries that sell pirated American music and films.

Biden said the U.S. would increase pressure on foreign governments to shut down the sites by “being as public as we possibly can” about illegal activity. U.S. business groups welcomed the plan, which was mandated by Congress in 2008 and also includes steps to ensure that the federal government does not purchase counterfeit goods.

“Addressing the problem of intellectual property theft in a meaningful way is essential to enhancing our global competitiveness and protecting American innovation,” said Mitch Bainwol, Chairman & CEO, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). “All those whose jobs rely on music welcome the commitment of President Obama and Vice President Biden to sustaining music’s economic and cultural contributions to America. We look forward to working with the Administration on the effective implementation of the report.”

Biden didn’t mention any foreign websites by name. A recent USTR report said China’s top Internet search firm, Baidu Inc, was associated with between 50 percent to 75 percent of illegal music downloads in China.

Several Russian websites still provide illegal downloads, even though the most notorious site, Allofmp3, was shut down in 2007.

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