Espinel named ‘intellectual property czar’

Copyright protection proponents praise appointment

President Obama has tapped Victoria Espinel as the White House’s so-called intellectual property czar, an appointment that won praise from industry lobbyists and unions as they push to make copyright protection a higher national priority.

Espinel’s official title will be U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator. Despite all the recent cable news-fueled rhetoric about the administration’s appointment of “czars” who are not subject to Senate approval, Espinel will face a confirmation hearing.

In 2005 Espinel became the first assistant U.S. trade representative for intellectual property and innovation, serving as chief U.S. trade negotiator on IP issues before the World Trade Organization. She most recently has been a visiting assistant professor at the George Mason U. School of Law and is the founder and president of Bridging the Innovation Divide, a nonprofit foundation.

Espinel’s nomination, which had been rumored for months, has come with some wariness among some in the technology community, who have even characterized the move as a way for Hollywood to protect a dying business model.

But under the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act, passed with overwhelming support last year, Obama is required to appoint someone to coordinate the administration’s efforts in intellectual property protection, with the idea that such a point person in the executive branch could give counterfeit and piracy issues greater urgency. At a symposium sponsored by the Motion Picture Assn. of America in April, Vice President Joseph Biden pledged to find the “right person” for the post.

Even though the administration was pressed to act quickly in selecting a nominee, speculation is that the appointment was delayed as the White House figured out just where she would be placed. The Office of Management and Budget coordinates across agencies, which is something that she will be doing in her post.

The announcement drew praise from Hollywood’s lobby and labor unions.

MPAA chairman-CEO Dan Glickman praised Espinel’s qualifications, pointing to her advocacy on behalf of “artists and creators,” and said in a statement that “we look forward to working with her in this new and increasingly important role.”

NBC Universal applauded the appointment, calling the intellectual property czar a “critically important position.” “This new White House executive, once confirmed by the Senate, should be well positioned to ensure that American innovation and creativity generate American jobs,” NBC U said in a statement.

Espinel also has acted as an adviser on intellectual property issues to the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee.