Bipartisan, Bicameral Event on Capitol Hill Highlights Consequences of Digital Theft

In a week when Congress and the Administration are negotiating to keep the government open, a news conference today concerning online theft demonstrated that there are core issues to the economy – such as the importance of American intellectual property as a growth engine and generator of economic prosperity and jobs that can still unite political parties. Ensuring the incentive to create and innovate is as  important today as it was when the Founding Fathers included the principle in U.S. Constitution.

Support for artists, workers and creators in the copyright, and other intellectual property communities was on powerful display today at a news conference in the U.S. Capitol held by a bipartisan, bicameral group of congressional leaders to highlight the impact of digital theft on America’s economy and jobs.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) pointed out this bipartisan, bicameral unity in his remarks, and explained the reason for it, “Theft of American intellectual property threatens our prosperity. This theft is unacceptable. It is damaging to our security as a nation.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) agreed: “If we are going to have a healthy economy, we need healthy intellectual property industries.”

In the chairmen’s sites are so-called rogue web sites set up to traffic infringing and counterfeit products. As House IP Subcommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte described, these sites have all the trappings of legitimate ecommerce. Consumers frequently are led to them by search engines, and the use of well-known payment processors and ads carrying familiar corporate logos give them an air of legitimacy.

In fact, Peter Bragdon, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Columbia Sportswear, said his company increasingly becomes aware of counterfeit sites through their warranty department. Consumers call to complain about defective merchandise, only to learn they have purchased a fake. 

Not only was bipartisan and bicameral alignment on display, today, but labor and business interests were also able to unite in common cause.

Paul Almeida, President of the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees, stated plainly the impact of rampant digital theft on his membership. “For these skilled professionals, online infringement is wage theft.”  His comments were particularly compelling, because many Americans do not realize that workers in many fields in the copyright community, from electricians working on a motion picture shoot, to background vocalists on a sound recording, earn their livings and retirement savings on the so called “back end” payments comprised  of royalties and residuals when motion pictures and TV shows are sold into syndication or issued on DVDs and when CDs are sold.  Thus every illegal download deprives these workers of a portion of their paycheck.  

Lawmakers say legislation is in the works, and will be introduced “soon”.

Statements by Copyright Alliance members are available here: