Biz to Obama: Put teeth in piracy plan

Hollywood urges White House to combat copyright theft

Once again sounding the alarm on the threat of copyright theft to the entertainment industry, a coalition of studios, record labels and labor unions on Wednesday urged the White House to deploy a broad array of techniques to combat piracy.

Their suggestions — which include everything from greater pressure on Internet providers to cooperate, to a more focused enforcement effort with the release of major blockbusters — came in a letter to Victoria Espinel, the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. Espinel, who is in the process of developing a comprehensive plan to fight piracy and enforce copyrights, was appointed to her position last year and came to Los Angeles last month to meet with industry officials.

Much of the letter reflected the tensions between the entertainment industry and Internet providers, search engines, hosting services and other online businesses. The coalition, which included the Motion Picture Assn. of America, The Screen Actors Guild, the Recording Industry Assn. of America and the Directors Guild of America, expressed frustration with the online world’s cooperation with its piracy efforts. It urged the White House to “mobilize key players that are sitting on the sidelines.”

“As the scope and volume of online infringement reaches unprecedented proportions, the need to encourage cooperation from these service providers and eliminate impediments to that cooperation, long a cornerstone of our copyright enforcement policy, is greater than ever before,” they wrote.

“Too often today, these businesses turn a blind eye, or at best react passively and selectively to the problem; too few of them take the basic, commercially reasonable steps necessary to educate their customers, identify abuses, and put an end to them,” they added.

The groups called for an annual White House summit to raise the visibility of the problem and allow agency heads to report on their progress. Vice President Joseph Biden held a summit in December that was attended by a number of studio reps and union officials.

The coalition also called for a national policy to support effective anti-piracy efforts online, a review of laws to make sure they keep pace with changing technology that makes online theft easier and a more proactive way to fight online copyright violations.

Specifically, they said copyright owners should be able to provide a database of works or digital files to an Internet provider. Those providers should not only be expected to take pirated content down, but also to “employ reasonable efforts to keep them off,” with such techniques as prohibiting the uploading or linking to infringing content, without worry that their “safe harbor,” status is in jeopardy.

Other orgs that were part of the coalition include the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the National Music Publishers Assn.

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