Justice Creates IP Task Force

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The Justice Department will work with the Federal Communications Commission and White House to combat IP piracy.

On Friday Feb. 12, the department announced the creation of an Intellectual Property Task Force within the department, chaired by the deputy attorney general. Among its goals will be to step up civil IP enforcement and "leverage" its existing partnership with the FCC.

"The rise in intellectual property crime in the United States and abroad threatens not only our public safety but also our economic well being. The Department of Justice must confront this threat with a strong and coordinated response," said Attorney General Eric Holder in announcing the task force.

That follows a December summit hosted by Vice President Joe Biden, Holder and other administration officials that also included the heads of some major media companies concerned about the online theft of their creative content:  NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker, Warner Bros. Entertainment Chairman Barry Meyer, Viacom chairman Philippe Dauman, plus many others from the music and publishing side.

That meeting had been requested by the vice president's office to get more information about the copyright industry.

The Task Force will also include representatives from Holder, the associate attorney general; the Criminal, Civil, and Antitrust Divisions; the Office of Legal Policy; the Office of Justice Programs; the Attorney General's Advisory Committee; the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys; as well as the FBI.

The task force will work with Intellectual Property Coordinator Victoria Espinal in the executive office of the president, whose post was created as part of the ramping-up of IP enforcement by both the White House and Justice at the direction of Congress.

Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn, who had criticized that summit for the absence of representatives of fair use advocates like, well, Public Knowledge, said she hoped the task force was targeting mass illegal reproduction of CDs and DVDs, and not going after "noncommercial consumer activity," which she said would be a mistake and "misuse of government resources."

Studios represented at the summit are definitely looking for the task force to target noncommercial consumer activity if it is widespread downloading of copyrighted online content that takes a toll on their own commercial enterprises.

"I think it is a major development in terms of progress on enforcement policy," said NBCU executive vice president and general counsel Rick Cotton. The company has been one of the strongest proponents of IP enforcement dating back to Bob Wright's commitment to the issue and continuing with Jeff Zucker's increased visibility.

"It is a critically important outgrowth of congressional passage of the Pro-IP act 18 months ago," said Cotton, "and the commendable recognition by the Obama administration that this is really a jobs issue."

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