Former White House IP Czar Immediately Jumps Ship To Microsoft-Driven Anti-Piracy Lobbying Group BSA

from the shameful dept

This was rumored for weeks before the former White House IP czar (technically "Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator") even had announced that she was stepping down from her job, but now it's been confirmed: just weeks after leaving the White House, Victoria Espinel will take over as the head of the Business Software Alliance, a group with a shameful past of overaggressive anti-piracy and pro-software patent positions, driven in large part by legacy software companies long past their innovation stage, and well into their "litigation" against innovators stage. The organization tends to take its orders mainly from Microsoft and Autodesk, two proponents of very strong copyright and patent enforcement, because it helps those legacy companies ward of competitors and disruptive innovators.

As you may recall, every year the BSA puts out a laughably ridiculous "global piracy study" that argues every infringing copy should count as a "lost sale." The BSA has a long history of using those reports to mislead the public and policy makers. The BSA also has a long history of raiding companies, tying them up in ridiculous "audits" where if you can't find the specific paperwork for the software you licensed years ago, you may be forced to pay huge sums. The organization has been widely criticized for the practices which often push small businesses to the edge of bankruptcy just because they can't find the right paperwork. The program also relies on bribing employees and former employees to rat out their companies based on completely bogus promises of payouts of "up to $1 million," when they almost never pay out more than $5,000. We once promised to pay out "up to $1 million" if anyone could prove a BSA $1 million payout. We never had to pay out a dime.

The BSA also, of course, was a strong supporter of SOPA until Microsoft realized that its users were angry and that SOPA might cause tremendous problems for the internet... and magically, the BSA suddenly changed its mind. The BSA has always had a close relationship with the federal government, of course. For years, its "anti-piracy" efforts were run by Neil MacBride who, like Espinel, once worked for Joe Biden. MacBride left the BSA after President Obama was elected to become the a top Justice Department official, later switching to become the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virgnia, where he's been involved in a number of high profile cases, including those involving copyright enforcement -- such as the case against Kim Dotcom and Megaupload. Just last week MacBride announced he was stepping down.

It is worth noting that, while I often disagreed with the position of the administration and Espinel on IP enforcement issues, she was much more willing to actually listen to complaints and have pretty open and wide ranging discussions on the issues. In the time she was in office, she was more than willing to reach out and discuss concerns and complaints that I and others had raised about the administration's positions, and some of her more recent efforts showed that she was certainly willing to take such constructive criticism into account. I hope that she will be willing to do the same in this new position, but I have concerns, since the role is not about pushing for the most effective policy position, but the one that benefits a few giant legacy companies the most. And the BSA is so tainted on that front, it would take a pretty miraculous shift to make the organization a "good" player on these issues.

Of larger concern: Espinel was intimately involved in a number of the discussions on "voluntary" agreements between various industries over how to deal with copyright infringement, meaning that she knows quite well the positions and plans of those whom she now may be fighting against in her new role, where she obviously has strong connections to those still in the government. Considering the massive concern about the "revolving door" between IP maximalist organizations and the government, the risk of bad results here seems quite high. Espinel was quite successful in bringing in a variety of viewpoints and trying to find common ground. Unfortunately, that's not what her new position likely calls for.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Kevin H (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 3:02pm

    Not news, Its the status quo

    Person has an important role with the government that is central towards a particular industry or topic. He/she is finally wooed by the private sector and paid greatly to exploit her insider knowledge to further a particular agenda for that private entity. Its the circlejerk of policy making.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    madasahatter (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 3:53pm

    Proper Paperwork

    I wonder how many people could prove they properly purchased some piece of software.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 4:08pm

    Bribery is now complete, paid with a cushy job.
    This kind of thing calls into question every single decision she made in office.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 4:34pm

    This job would have been offered to her on day one as the IP Czar but ONLY on the condition that (behind the scenes) she basically shilled as though she already had the job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 6:46pm

    Re: Proper Paperwork

    Its simple for me OS came with the computers. Everything else is open source.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Postulator (profile), Aug 28th, 2013 @ 7:05pm

    Foxes and chicken coops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 10:11pm

    What sort of idiot bases his life around the lost cause of supporting copyright infringement? Mike Masnick, that's who.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Pixelation, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 10:14pm

    BSA= Bull Shit Alliance

    Who takes them seriously besides themselves?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2013 @ 3:11am

    To me, it would seem there are 3 lofical reasons for bringing her in:

    1) BSA is a coalition of primarily software makers, primarily hardware makers, automation company, a car company and even freeware producers like AVG and Adobe. There is bound to be internal difference of opinions. By taking in a person who is used to horse-trading, they are seeking a far more united formulation of policy.

    2) Hiring a shadow-politician to lobby politicians is always a hoot, since politicians are used to listening to these voices in their heads. By having a negotiation oriented shadow-politician carry out the dirty work, they are likely to appeal to a broader share of the politicians.

    3) Straight up manipulation. Since she has an inclusive reputation and very strong scientific credentials, they are given a far better chance to advance their more extreme views in a much more edible package.

    In either case, I do not understand how a legal scholar with relatively good credentials would stoop this low. I mean, she should be able to find a job at a university, create her own lawfirm or simply live of holding speeches for both tech companies and copyright holders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Ninja (profile), Aug 29th, 2013 @ 4:50am

    If memory serves it's during her time in th IP coordination she wasn't bad. But she was far from good giving much more weight to those that actually had the money and power (read: copyright intensive industries). Sure she got all sorts of input but the output that it's what matters almost always gave little to no importance for advocates for the public.

    Still, even if she was totally pro public domain, fair use enthusiast this would still be a case of the classic revolving door issue. And this is the cause of much of what's wrong with the US nowadays - hold your fire, I'm not saying other countries are better or worse - and such thing must end. How? It's open for debate, specially considering the ones benefiting from this are in charge of the circus.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    me, Aug 29th, 2013 @ 5:19am

    The BSA is a parasitic middleman run by ambulance chasers and should be outlawed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Rich, Aug 29th, 2013 @ 9:11am

    Re: Re: Proper Paperwork

    Companies have tried the "OS came with the computer" excuse. That's not good enough for the BSA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Rich, Aug 29th, 2013 @ 9:14am


    What sort of idiot bases his life around fighting progress with their outmoded business model? The MPAA, RIAA, and their Internet troll-cronies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2013 @ 5:08pm


    US Government and the politicians who take bribes from the BSA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2013 @ 5:12pm

    Do anyone really think she didn't work for the BSA/MPAA/RIAA/etc, during her stay as IP Czar?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2013 @ 5:21pm

    This article is a conspiracy theory just like 9/11 inside job.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2013 @ 10:58pm


    No evidence to support this statement. No where has Mike ever supported copyright infringement. Your confusion does you no justice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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