It's that time again. The White House's IP Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) -- often called the IP Czar -- is asking for public input
on the upcoming "Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement" that it will be releasing next year. The Joint Strategic Plan comes out every three years and is supposed to guide the federal government in how it handles priorities around intellectual property enforcement. Now, I recognize that the cynical among you will already be insisting that there is no value in responding to this, because the government is going to simply repeat the arguments of the legacy industries and its copyright extremists. However, in the past, these open comment periods have actually helped, and the two previous Joint Strategic Plans have not been as bad as expected. In 2010, we sent in our feedback
and was pleasantly surprised that at least some of it was reflected in the plan
. It recognized the importance of fair use and encouraging innovation. It also admitted that most studies on the impact of intellectual property on the economy were bogus.
Then, the second report, issued in 2013, was even better
and presented a much more balanced understanding of intellectual property law, and how over-enforcement and over-expansion could create real harms as well. It also points out that truly the best way to deal with problems around "piracy" is through greater innovation, rather than relying on enforcement. It doubled down on supporting fair use, and noted that it was working with the Copyright Office to release an "index of major fair use decisions" -- something that finally came out just a few months ago and is actually pretty damn good
In other words, this report need not just be a playground for Hollywood types looking to ratchet things up.
Still: there are concerns. The first two reports were done by the original IPEC, Victoria Espinel, who left the office a few years ago. This latest report will be overseen by the new IPEC, Danny Marti, who has only been in the job a few months. And, unfortunately, in one of his first speeches, he trotted out pretty much all of the ridiculous and debunked copyright extremist tropes
about the need for greater protection, exaggerating the economic impact of intellectual property and demanding more "respect" for intellectual property (rather than earning more respect for it).
It's also somewhat concerning that in his blog post asking for public comments, he cites one of the most debunked statistics around, from the US Chamber of Commerce, concerning the "worldwide market for counterfeit and pirated products," which he argues is $1.8 trillion. Having spent years debunking earlier claims of $200 billion
, the idea that it's magically shot up to $1.8 trillion is insane
. What's incredible is that the "methodology" for the $1.8 trillion is laughable, and it's a shame that Marti would cite it. The Chamber of Commerce just took the already debunked numbers from 2008 (which, in case you are wondering were actually based on a number someone just made up in the 1980s
and which has never been checked) and then "projected" out to 2015. Really. And Marti quotes it as if it has some validity.
And he does this despite the fact that actual credible sources
like the Government Accountability Office
and the OECD
have both insisted that there is no evidence that the issue of counterfeiting is anywhere near as big as the earlier problems stated. Furthermore, multiple studies have further shown that counterfeiting is very rarely a true "economic loss" as it's almost never a substitution good, but rather an aspirational purchase. That is, the person buying the fake Rolex isn't taking any money away from Rolex, because they can't afford to buy a real one. In fact, multiple studies have found that those who buy counterfeit products regularly go on to buy the real product
later, when they can afford to. In fact, it appears the purchase of a counterfeit often gives them a closer bond with the brand itself. And, in the end, estimates have suggested that actual
counterfeiting is probably somewhere around 2 to 3%
of the big numbers thrown around by the Chamber of Commerce.
So, you have to wonder, if Marti is tossing around numbers from one of the world's largest lobbying organizations
, the US Chamber of Commerce, rather than from well respected and credible sources like the Government Accountability Office and the OECD, just where he's coming from as he puts together this report.
Hopefully, people can submit thoughtful and well-argued comments based on the details set forth in the Federal Register
and help point Marti and the IPEC office in the right direction. Such comments are due by October 16th.