RealTime IT News

U.S. Launches New Anti-Piracy Campaign

WASHINGTON -- The White House, the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security and Justice and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Zoellick will carry out a multi-prong initiative to fight the global trade in pirated and counterfeited goods.

According to the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a major special interest group representing the software and Internet industry, an estimated 36 percent of the software installed on computers worldwide last year was pirated, representing a loss of nearly $29 billion.

Speaking at a media briefing, which included Attorney General John Ashcroft and Zoellick, Commerce Secretary Don Evans said the plan "gives American businesses clear steps to protect themselves from international counterfeiters and encourages businesses to adopt programs that ensure that their supply chains are free from fakes."

Known as the Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP), the new initiative includes beefed up programs to block bogus goods at borders, establishing a hotline to provide U.S. businesses with resources to protect themselves from piracy and developing a Web-based guide for American businesses to safeguard their intellectual property.

Evans said the plan also calls for challenging industry leaders to develop voluntary guidelines or corporate compliance programs to ensure that supply chains are free of fakes.

"With the spread of the Internet and sophisticated duplication technology, it's gotten very easy for would-be pirates and counterfeiters from other countries to download a corporate identity, or a catalogue, then produce high-quality forgeries," Zoellick said. "With the expansion of global supply and distribution channels, the way is now open for those tapes here and around the world. This is now real-time theft."

Late last year, the USTR identified the growth of piracy and trade goods counterfeiting as a top priority and began working with a number of U.S. agencies and trading partners to develop a new approach to the problem.

"This problem crosses many different jurisdictions, laws and countries, and the STOP initiative provides a coordinated and effective answer," Zoellick said. "The message to pirates and counterfeiters is simple: we will do everything we can to make their life miserable. We'll stop their products at our border; we will name and shame their company; we'll ratchet up the penalties; and we'll coordinate with our trading partners to prevent third-country trafficking."

According to Zoellick, global intellectual property rights theft and trade in fakes have grown to "unprecedented levels." From pirated music and movies to counterfeit brake pads, Zoellick said the illicit trade is not only growing in the United States but also among other countries in an effort to escape the reach of U.S. law enforcement officials.

Of particular concern to Zoellick is China, which has emerged as a leading source of pirated and counterfeit goods. The U.S. has been pressing China to meet its intellectual property obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization. Earlier this year, China committed to subject the full array of piracy and counterfeiting operations to criminal prosecution and to target production facilities and sales of fakes.

Ashcroft said another important goal of STOP is to close loopholes in the current law.

"For example, under current law, it is not a violation of intellectual property law simply to import or export counterfeit goods. Nor is it a violation of the law for an importer to have a warehouse full of counterfeit software if there is no evidence of an illegal sale," Ashcroft said. "We intend to work closely with Congress to close such loopholes."

Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the BSA, rushed to praise the STOP plan. "The economic and societal benefits of software and other U.S. products contribute profoundly to the world economy," he said in a statement. "Yet, the software-driven productivity that has the potential to greatly strengthen national economies, including our own, is only viable if the intellectual property that serves as its foundation is fully protected and enforced by international law."