The Obama Administration has been slowly ramping up its attention to intellectual property issues. Over the past few months, we’ve seen an IP “summit” at the White House. We’ve seen the successful nomination of a new cabinet-level “IP Czar” position. We’ve seen the announcement of a new DOJ task force for IP issues. What does it all portend?
Unfortunately, many signs suggest that the administration is paying far more attention to the interests of the entertainment industry than to the public good. At the same time, there are a few positive efforts and indications, so we’re holding out hope that things could improve.
The first bad omen came last December, when Vice President Biden invited the RIAA, MPAA and other representatives of the mainstream entertainment industry to a closed-door “Piracy Summit” at the White House. Although Biden’s office sold the summit as “bringing together all the stakeholders” in the piracy debate, it failed to invite a single representative of the public interest or the technology industry.
One outcome previewed at the summit was the formation of a new Department Of Justice “Intellectual Property Task Force”, which was formally announced in February. Unfortunately, the Department of Justice already has a history of coming down disproportionately hard on victims of the copyright conflict. And while the task force’s announcement stressed that IP crime “threatens not only our public safety but also our economic wellbeing,” it didn’t even pay lip-service to the harms to privacy, free speech, and innovation in the industry’s long war on piracy. Continue reading.