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The Battle to Enforce Intellectual Property Laws

According to a recent LA Times Blog article, the Obama Administration faces at least three major battles regarding how intellectual property laws in the United States are being enforced. The pressure to heighten laws against piracy and initiate other means of intellectual property enforcement comes mainly from Copyright owners and performers.

The first debate centers on so-called “secretive negotiations” over the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that was initiated under President George W. Bush. The Obama Administration has received requests from Copyright holders to create provisions to make Internet Service Providers (ISPs) put more effort into preventing online piracy. One suggestion is that ISPs could cut-off broadband accounts that have been used multiple times to abuse the law.

Another heated intellectual property issue relates to performance artists and copyright owners demanding that the Federal Communications Commission alter proposed Net neutrality rules. These tech supporters are concerned that a way needs to be created for content providers to make deals with ISPs so that the flow of legitimate movies and music online can be distinguished from bootleg copies. On the flip-side, groups such as Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are opposed to making Net neutrality rules geared more towards copyright enforcement tools.

The third matter at hand arose when the White House Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator opened up the floor to receive input from the public on its strategic plan for intellectual property enforcement. The response to this request includes far too many points to include here. However, just to get an idea, seven copyright owner and performer groups, including the Screen Actors Guild, the RIAA, and the MPAA added to the list.

While strengthening enforcement for repeat piracy offenders under a variation of “three strikes” should help prevent illegal copying from getting even more out of hand, there is still much to consider in terms of how far restrictions should go. The main concern with more enforcement is that copyright holders will not have as much responsibility as before, thus handing control over to third parties. In addition, viable distribution technologies should not be cut-off either. It makes sense for intellectual property laws to evolve with technology’s exponential scope, but just how far is too far?

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