from the not-a-copyright-guy dept
While we’re still waiting for the White House to actually nominate a new head of the US Patent and Trademark Office, the other big administration “intellectual property” job has also been vacant for over a year: the “Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator” (IPEC) job, frequently referred to as the “IP Czar.” That job was previously held by Victoria Espinel, who left a year ago and immediately jumped to a lobbying job with the BSA, the copyright maximalist trade group run by Microsoft.
While I was disappointed to see Espinel jump to such a group, and disagreed with some of things she did as IPEC, on the whole she did a good job while in that role. The job itself is very strange in that it’s written into the law (PRO-IP Act of 2008) to be a role that basically pushes for IP maximalism, rather than any sort of balance (or anything involving actually promoting the progress of science and the useful arts). It would be like having a role in the Treasury Department specifically devoted to “how do we protect outdated bank business models.” But, on the whole, Espinel actually worked really hard to take opposing viewpoints into account, to bring a variety of people into the discussion (including voices that had previously been ignored by DC). Her more nuanced and inclusive take on things was evident from the big 2013 Joint Strategic Plan that she released right before leaving office. It recognized that the best way to deal with infringement wasn’t necessarily by ramping up enforcement (despite her title), but in encouraging greater innovation. And unlike many other similar efforts, it actually recognized the value and importance of fair use.
Given all that, many people had been wondering who would be appointed to take over the job. It’s now been announced that Obama is nominating Danny Marti, a long-time DC trademark lawyer. While he’s been involved in other types of cases, including CFAA, cybersquatting and copyright cases, it appears that his focus has been on trademark. That’s an interesting choice, since trademark issues tend to be less controversial than copyright ones. He also doesn’t appear to have much of a policy background at all, which makes it an interesting choice.
While the RIAA and MPAA, along with NBC Universal and the US Chamber of Commerce, all cheered on the nomination, they’re kind of expected to do so. And, as the Washington Post notes, they appear to be cheering on the position more than the guy filling the role. The Washington Post also quotes Mitch Stoltz from EFF noting that he hopes Marti’s experience in these cases means that he “understands that careless over-enforcement of trademark, copyright, and patent laws can harm our economic progress and our freedom of speech.” He still needs to be approved by the Senate, but we’re hopeful that if he is, Marti continues to follow in Espinel’s footsteps in actually listening to a variety of opinions outside of just those emanating from Hollywood.