Senate IPEC Hearing Discusses China and Bad Medicine, Ignores Past Crackdowns on Legitimate Sites
Senate IPEC Hearing Discusses China and Bad Medicine, Ignores Past Crackdowns on Legitimate Sites
Senate IPEC Hearing Discusses China and Bad Medicine, Ignores Past Crackdowns on Legitimate Sites

    Get Involved Today

    On May
    9, 2012 the Senate Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing of the Office
    of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) with Victoria
    Espinel as the sole witness.  This
    position coordinates the work done by different government agencies to combat
    intellectual property theft.  The May 9
    hearing was the committee’s third oversight hearing on IP enforcement.  The hearing was nothing to write home about,
    which was unfortunate for a few reasons. 
    First of all, it was primarily a Democratic Senatorial event.  Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the
    committee’s Ranking Member was the only Republican senator present, and he left
    after his opening statement.  The other
    senators present apart from Grassley and Chairman Leahy (D-VT) were retiring
    Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), and Sheldon
    Whitehouse (D-RI).  Second, the two stars
    of the show were counterfeit pharmaceuticals and China.  Senators wanted to know how was IPEC
    addressing the problem of counterfeit medications and what specific commitments
    did IPEC hope to receive from China to enforce trade secret theft.  The hour-long hearing can be succinctly
    summarized with Espinel arguing for more funding and stating that having more
    US personnel overseas cultivating working relationships with foreign law
    enforcement is what the US needs most to combat IP theft.

    more important than what the senators and Ms. Espinel discussed during the
    hearing was that which was not discussed, namely the issue of US-based
    companies and websites having their first amendment rights violated through
    government agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) via the Recording
    Industry Association of America (RIAA). 
    The best example of this violation is the US-based company, a
    music blog that features material from mainstream and up and coming artists,
    whose areas include technology, videos, and gaming.  For over a year the government blocked and
    redirected Dajaz1 to an ICE seizure page with no explanation.  Court records from this case were recently
    released showing that one of the main reasons Dajaz1 remained censored for so
    long was because the government obtained three time extensions while waiting
    for rights holders and the RIAA to evaluate the infringing content.  However, according to Dajaz1 owner Andre
    Nasib, the artists and record companies (rights holders) had sent him the songs for promotional purposes.  Furthermore, the RIAA and the government refused
    to answer Congressional inquiries about this case
    .  So essentially, the federal government went
    after a US-based website over content the owner was permitted to have, all
    because the RIAA wanted the government to do so.  Ultimately, ICE unblocked Dajaz1 with no
    explanation or apology

    Knowledge has previously
    voiced concern
    over the threat existing laws pose to innovation and freedom
    of speech.  Among the numerous reasons PK
    and others opposed the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act
    (SOPA) was that there were already laws on the books that targeted copyright
    infringers, sometimes overreaching through their implementation.  It is unfortunate that the Senate Judiciary
    Committee failed to address this overreach in its IP enforcement oversight hearing.  It is also troubling to see Senators
    continue to insist upon legislation
    combatting IP theft despite the outcry
    from the American public during the SOPA/PIPA debacle.  The time spent in the oversight hearing would
    have been better utilized with a serious discussion about how IPEC, the federal
    government, and future legislation should protect American (online)
    intellectual property without restricting the innovation and free expression
    that make it great.