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Obama eyes Attorney General

Eric H. Holder Jr. could help war on piracy

President-elect Barack Obama’s pick to be the nation’s top law enforcement official could be a strong ally in the entertainment industry’s ongoing war on piracy.

Several news orgs, including Associated Press, Newsweek and CNN, reported on Tuesday afternoon that Obama had offered the job of Attorney General to Eric H. Holder Jr., a former U.S. Attorney as well as top Justice Dept. official in the Clinton administration.

Holder, said to have accepted the offer, would be the first African American attorney general in U.S. history, if confirmed by the Senate. Obama has not yet made a formal announcement about the offer because his aides were still canvassing Senate Republicans to gauge reaction to a Holder appointment, news reports said.

As deputy attorney general under Clinton, Holder oversaw federal efforts to combat what officials then referred to as “high-tech crime.” In a January 2000 speech, Holder described high-tech crimes “and the challenges they pose as among the highest priorities for the Dept. of Justice and for me personally.”

Six months earlier, Holder had declared IP crime a priority and announced the launch of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Initiative, a joint operation between the Justice Dept., the FBI and U.S. Customs targeting various forms of piracy.

The initiative’s first bust was in Los Angeles, netting more than $13 million in bootlegged software and music. “Under a plea agreement, the defendant and his accomplice agreed to forfeit 387,000 counterfeit music and computer CDs and manufacturing equipment worth more than $1.5 million,” Holder said in his speech.

Shortly afterward, officials arrested 10 people in Manhattan and charged them with operating a counterfeit motion picture ring. Agents seized more than 300 video cassette recorders and tens of thousands of video cassettes, Holder said.

“While we are making substantial progress in every component of the IP initiative, we believe we can and must do more to protect U.S. companies from the theft of intellectual property,” Holder said.

In February 2000, Holder told a congressional committee that the Justice Dept’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section was “the cornerstone” of the agency’s overall efforts against online crime.

Holder repeatedly noted the importance of IP as a major economic force and the need to protect it.

Most recently, Holder has been a litigation partner at the bluechip D.C. law firm of Covington and Burling.

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