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Big job well done?

Justice Dept. gives itself a piracy hug

WASHINGTON — When it comes to fighting intellectual piracy, the Justice Dept. is locked and loaded.

Or so the agency claims in a report that maintains the feds have gone above and beyond their own recommendations on how to crack down on intellectual-property thieves.

“Progress Report of the Dept. of Justice’s Task Force on Intellectual Property,” to be released today, is a follow-up to a DOJ study issued in 2004. That study, the agency’s first on intellectual-property issues, concluded with extensive recommendations for improving Justice’s intellectual-property enforcement, protection and education programs.

Recommendations, both short- and long-term, focused on criminal enforcement, international cooperation, civil enforcement, antitrust enforcement, legislation and prevention.

“The Dept. of Justice is proud to announce that it has implemented all of the recommendations contained in the 2004 (study),” the new report states. Indeed, Justice “went well beyond the recommendations by taking … additional steps.”

For instance, the 2004 study recommended establishing five more Computer Hacking & Intellectual Property units, which include federal prosecutors. Report says five CHIP units have been set up, in D.C., Orlando, Fla.; Nashville; Pittsburgh; and Sacramento.

But DOJ then created an additional seven CHIP units — in Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Denver; Detroit; Newark, N.J.; New Haven, Conn.; and Philadelphia.

Other 2004 recommendations the new report says have been carried out:

  • Deploying an experienced federal prosecutor as an intellectual-property law enforcement coordinator to Southeast Asia and obtaining funding for a similar post in Eastern Europe;

  • Expanding international training and technical assistance efforts;

  • Increasing the number of extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties that include intellectual property offenses;

  • Organizing victims’ conferences on intellectual property awareness;

  • Creating intellectual-property educational programs for minors.

Further measures the agency says it has implemented include training more than 2,000 foreign prosecutors, investigators and judges; working with the U.S. Trade Rep to improve language regarding intellectual-property protections in free trade agreements and other international treaties; filing 13 amicus briefs in the Supreme Court in cases involving intellectual property; and partnering with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to dedicate $900,000 over three years for piracy prevention efforts with nonprofit educational institutions.

As evidence of the effectiveness of these new measures, D. Kyle Sampson, chairman of the IP Task Force, pointed to a 98% increase in the number of defendants prosecuted since 2004. Among the more significant improvements, he added, are “our efforts to build capacity and resources to bring more prosecutions.” The additional CHIP units, he said, bring the total to 25 nationwide.

Sampson said the agency’s overseas efforts should help the movie and music industries in their fights against bootleggers.

“We’ve really been working a lot with China, Russia, India and other countries,” he said, listing the top havens for mass piracy.

“This impressive catalog of accomplishments makes clear that this administration recognizes the importance of intellectual property and continues to make enormous efforts to protect it,” said Recording Industry Assn. of America topper Mitch Bainwol of the new report. “Along with the entire music community, we applaud the ongoing efforts of the task force.”

MPAA did not respond to a request for comment.

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