PROTECT-IP Supporters on Capitol Hill Today

The Copyright Alliance’s Sandra Aistars joined individuals representing a broad spectrum of business and workers this morning on Capitol Hill to explain for lawmakers the real-world impact of web sites trafficking in pirated and counterfeited products.

It was the second in a series of educational meetings and briefings coordinated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center to urge support for legislation targeting these so-called rogue sites.

Sandra explained who comprises the core creative community for a crowded hearing room: “We are your neighbors and we contribute to the welfare of your community…we are individual creators, entrepreneurs and small businesses all over the country.”

She pointed out that the Internet is critical to creators as a legitimate tool for distributing and marketing their work, and as a tool for communicating with customers and fans. But for most artists, the issue of digital theft is often even more devastating than for large, well-known companies who have more resources to employ lawyers and watchdogs to police and defend against the problem.

“An individual artist doesn’t have the resources to go after these sites, outside our borders, beyond our jurisdiction, dedicated to infringement,” she said.

Paul Almeida, President of the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees spoke on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of union employees in the creative industries. “My message is simple: for these skilled professionals, online infringement costs jobs, steals wages, and cuts benefits.”

Illustrating the diversity of jobs impacted by online counterfeiting and piracy, David Tognotti, General Counsel of Monster Cable, shared his company’s story. Monster Cable, founded by a first-generation American in his garage, now owns 400 patents and employs 500 people. But during the last several years, the company has lost “hundreds of millions of dollars” to counterfeits.

“Our brand is respected by consumers worldwide,” he said. But “rogue web sites are stealing the good will we’ve built, and siphoning off sales.”

The implications of counterfeit versions of those created by a company like Monster Cable goes beyond lost jobs and revenues. Counterfeit electronics are made in substandard factory conditions, and can contain unlawful and harmful amounts of substances like lead and chromium, he explained. Consumers have also complained of stolen credit card information, he said.

John Spink, PhD at Michigan State University’s School of Packaging and specializes in packaging and food safety, agreed that legislation like the PROTECT-IP Act is important to create a deterrent for the criminal enterprises that operate these rogue sites.

“The problem gets incrementally worse every week,” Monster Cable’s Tognotti said, likening the counterfeit sites to back alley counterfeit vendors on certain big-city streets. “It’s the same idea, but now the migration from that to online has grown exponentially.”