Anti-piracy unit requests resources

Coalition takes on full range of illegal goods

The movie and music industries have joined a broad coalition calling for a significant increase in federal resources and attention devoted to combating the full range of pirated goods, from DVDs and CDs to automobile brakes and prescription drugs.

In a Thursday press conference on Capitol Hill, the recently formed Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy unveiled a six-point plan to improve intellectual property laws and enforcement. The group will mount an intensive lobbying campaign to get the plan enacted into law.

Together, counterfeiting and piracy constitute “a pernicious epidemic threatening the future economic growth of the U.S. in all sectors,” said Rick Cotton, CACP chairman and general counsel for NBC Universal. Bootlegging is “the new face of crime” both domestically and internationally, Cotton added, noting the increasing role that organized gangs have been playing.

CACP members total 350 from both business and labor, Cotton said. The main players are the National Assn. of Manufacturers, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as, from the showbiz side, the Motion Picture Assn. of America and the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

Each of those groups has at one time or another pressed the government for help against the problem. CACP marks the first time such a broad-based org has banded together against bootlegging.

Former Michigan governor John Engler, now president of the National Assn. of Manufacturers, said that counterfeiting and piracy account for some 5% of total global trade and pose a public health and safety threat.

Also speaking at the press conference was a man whose mother’s fight against cancer was undercut by a diluted drug sold to her as the real thing. As a result, she experienced great pain in her final months.

The six-point plan, dubbed “Campaign to Protect America,” calls for the following:

n?Increasing resources for the Dept. of Homeland Security and Dept. of Justice to fight bootlegging.

n?Strengthening border enforcement to catch bogus goods being smuggled into the country.

n?Toughening penalties.

n?Improving federal government coordination, including establishment of a fulltime White House position overseeing all efforts.

n?Reforming civil and judicial processes.

n?Educating consumers about the dangers and wrongs of buying counterfeited/pirated product.

Bruce Josten, exec VP of the Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged the ambitiousness of the plan. “We realize we won’t change things overnight,” Josten said. “This is a long-term fight.”

Cotton said the CACP is still trying to estimate the amount of taxpayer dollars it would cost to implement the plan, “but active enforcement will benefit the U.S. economy. The cost should be seen as an investment.”

The coalition is still in early talks with congressional leaders. Cotton declined to identify them but said, “We’ve been talking to a broad range of leaders in the House and Senate and the preliminary reactions have been very encouraging.”

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