US Copyright Czar wants your thoughts on how to measure and reduce infringement

Victoria Espinel, the Obama Administration's new copyright enforcement czar, wrote in to tell us that her office is running a new public inquiry into how the US should enforce copyrights. It runs a little to the "have you stopped beating your wife yet?" in the questions it asks ("[What are] the costs to the U.S. economy resulting from intellectual property violations, and the threats to public health and safety created by infringement?") but the fact that they're opening this up to the public and seeking comments from all sides is good news. Comments are due by Mar 24. What I'm wondering is if they'd be up to recommendations like, "Reduce infringement statistics by clarifying copyright law to make it clear that incidentally capturing some copyrighted music in the background while your toddler is dancing in the kitchen isn't infringement." Admittedly, judges are pretty good at interpreting the law in those cases, but that means that you have to be able to afford to pay a lawyer.

Still, a standardized, rigorous way of reporting infringement would be a good recommendation -- remember that the oft-cited statistics for job-losses due to piracy are an outright (and admitted) fabrication, as are the stats on college downloading. Getting some rigor into the numbers game would do a world of good.

This request for comments and for recommendations for an improved enforcement strategy is divided into two parts. In the first, the IPEC seeks written submissions from the public regarding the costs to the U.S. economy resulting from intellectual property violations, and the threats to public health and safety created by infringement. In the second part, the IPEC requests detailed recommendations from the public regarding the objectives and content of the Joint Strategic Plan and other specific recommendations for improving the Government's intellectual property enforcement efforts. Responses to this request for comments may be directed to either of these two parts, or both, and may include a response to one or more requests for information found in either part.
Coordination and Strategic Planning of the Federal Effort Against Intellectual Property Infringement: Request of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator for Public Comments Regarding the Joint Strategic Plan (Thanks, Victoria!)


    1. No, he (Cory) is telling us about her (Victoria Espinel’s) request for public comments about an issue BoingBoing frequently covers. Would you rather he didn’t pass this info on, or that the gov’t proceed to do whatever it likes without public input?

  1. Enforcement ought to remain a civil action, as these are private wrongs, and thus be privately brought by those who claim copyright against those who infringe, in properly constituted Courts of Law. Proof of actual monetary loss by the plaintiff ought to be required prior to damages in an equal amount being awarded. Collection is as any other private citizen collects on Court Judgments.

    Why ought I – or my Government – to pay dime one for people to enforce their Government-granted “intellectual property” (sic) monopoly? (Digression: “Intellectual property” = this very and precise private right to sue: the existence of this, is now grounds for an even wider claim for greater rights? Talk about boot-strapping!!)”

    I ask: “What’s in it for me, that I should give up or cease to have any of the rights I now have?” (After all, that is the way these IP executives usually talk.)

  2. The cynical part of me is thinking this is just a ploy to allow the industry to put forth suggestions in very astroturfing kind of way.

    With all the scummy tactics that have been associated with the copyright lobby, ACTA, et al, does anyone think that we actually have a say in this?
    I don’t. And I think it’s pretty accurate to say that we never have.
    Defeatist, perhaps – but when it comes to legislation, the people have never really had a say. A few minor wins… if that.

  3. do what the bush administration did when it wanted to stop hearing about environmental problems – defund all the monitoring. problem solved!

  4. The post gets to this, but I’d turn the question around and ask, “What are the costs to the U.S. economy resulting from aggressive intellectual property law enforcement, and the threats to public health and safety created by aggressive intellectual property law enforcement?”

    At present, the cost has been diminished privacy due to corporate surveillence of personal communications, diminished productivity due to corporate lawsuits against users, and a climate hostile to communication, creativity, and innovation.

    I’ve begun to think that a comparison to the drug war would be worthwhile. Not that I think that the war on copying is comparably harmful to human life – although that might be arguable with respect to drug and medical patents – but that should be a policy question of what should be done to ensure that creators are fairly compensated for their work (or what should be done to prevent drug abuse) has instead become a quasi-moral crusade against transgressors, where punishment is a good in and of itself, independent of whether it does anything to protect any creator.

  5. how do you reduce copyright infringement?
    the solution is simple:

    Declare that all non-commercial use is not an infringement.


  6. Reduce copyright infringement? I don’t want to do that.. How else would i watch tv without commercials.

  7. We’re not talking about an inclusive definition of infringement here. If the MPAA and RIAA want to protect their artists, they should release all their works exclusively on protein strands that can only be reproduced in a bioengineering lab.

    If you’re just a poor artist struggling to make a buck, you won’t be getting any help from David Ogden, Tom Perrelli, or Donald Verrilli, the industry scumballs Obama appointed to the DOJ. It’s no wonder so many people think Hollywood is in the DNC’s pocket.

    Big media, for one, has no interest in redefining “infringement,” unless it results in a more sweeping definition that favors their cause. All they care about is punishing some of their best customers more efficiently, without coming off as total monsters or irreparably demolishing their bottom line.

    How many trees do you think they killed for their stupid CD longboxes, anyway?

  8. Unfortunately, as an Australian who has put forward submissions regarding the proposed R rating for video games and the proposed Internet filter, all these seem to do is let people think they’re being involved in the democratic process while the government does whatever the hell they were planning to do anyway.

  9. reduce infringement??
    Hrmm, maybe put ultra-hip montage style high gloss marketing commercials at the front of movies telling kids how every time they pirate a video god kills a kitten…oh wait, umm… srsly, I morally support the artists and content creators wherever and however I can. I try to evangelize this. I don’t lose sleep over corporate decentralization of media for many reasons, even though I know that I may harm completely nice kitten owning people.
    You can chart the spin-up of separation of right holding with content creation and subsequent media manipulation with the rise of modern television culture. I bet it would also plot nicely with some other nasty little social problems.
    But for the feds…? Have them talk to people who are *not* afraid to lose their content, that whole bread upon the waters thing. If what you’re creating is more important than yourself, it has to exist. Now I know that doesn’t buy kitten food, but a balance can exist. that’s how I see this stuff.

  10. Rolling back the copy right team back to the original 28(?) year term would instantly cut down on a lot of infringement.

    Yeah, I know, but a guy can still dream.

  11. I think that one way to reduce infringement as it’s currently addressed would be to create a stronger legal definition of fair use and include clearly delineated safe harbors. The present environment for debate and discussion wrongly neglects fair use or treats it as some sort of anachronism or loop-hole. What do my fellow commenters think of asking the Federal Government to provide a more clear definition of fair use so that resources for enforcement are not wasted on fair use??

  12. Well, I got a few proposals…
    I’ll review and suggest them.

    Mostly around;
    1. Ending Outsourcing – so it’s people in the USA making the CDs
    2. Ending ridiculous extensions on “Orphan” works that only benefit opportunistic lawyers.
    3. Punishing fake filers of claims and re-defining “Fair Use”.
    4. Breaking up the giant companies with “Anti-Trust” laws so they don’t act as “Gate Keepers” anymore.

    Right now, Pirates are viewed as “Robin Hoods” and any enforcement is only viewed like a Gestapo officer holding a gun on a man as his thugs look in the basement for Jews.

    Change that public perception, (and the truth that created it) there will be much more sales, better products and people will actually care beyond getting perhaps caught over the use/obtaining of materials unfairly…

  13. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the right to copy should be recognized as part of the right of free speech, what we currently call “copy right” is actually a Copy Right Abrogation Privilege to wield against others rights.

  14. If the Orphan Works Act could be passed, people will take copyright infringement seriously. Let common sense rule, at least for orphan works.

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