On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder urged Americans to fink on their neighbors and report intellectual-property offenses like popping or hawking unapproved pharmaceuticals and downloading music and movies illegally.
The announcement at the White House came as the Justice Department kicked off a public campaign against intellectual-property theft, which like all successful wars against societal scourges, will have public-service announcements on MTV.
“Fortunately, we can all be part of the solution. Anyone who suspects an IP crime can visit cybercrime.gov, fbi.gov, or iprcenter.gov to report suspected offenses,” Holder said. “The public’s proactive attention to these issues can help us to disrupt the sale of illegal goods; to prosecute the individuals, gangs, and international criminal organizations that profit from these activities; and to stop those who would exploit the ingenuity of others for monetary gain.”
So far there’s no word on what kind of reward you’ll get for reporting your teen sister for using an app to turn a Miley Cyrus YouTube video into an MP3, but surely you’ll get at least a Scouting badge for your loyalty to Big Content and the American Way.
The announcement shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The Justice Department under President Barack Obama has seen a sea change in attitude when it comes to intellectual-property enforcement, which could have been predicted by the number of former Recording Industry Association of America attorneys appointed by the Obama administration. (Hollywood votes and donates Democratic).
In contrast, the terrorism-focused George W. Bush administration shunned calls for the Justice Department to attack illicit websites hawking counterfeit goods and unauthorized copyright material. In the last year, however, Holder’s office has seized 350 websites under a program called “Operation in Our Sites” — with 150 seizures announced Monday.
The attorney general said rights holders need Americans’ help, not just the government’s. He said the United States is “encouraging the American people to become vigilant partners in identifying and disrupting intellectual property crimes.”
“Intellectual property theft,” he said, ranges from “counterfeit consumer goods and pharmaceuticals to illegal downloads and other pirated materials.”
The government, Holder added, “won’t be able to win this fight and keep pace with today’s criminals alone. Our efforts will always depend not only on law enforcement activity and industry partnerships, but also on robust public engagement and the vigilance of the American people.”
While we applaud the idea of installing keyloggers on friends’ computers to see if they are undermining the country’s economic recovery, asking America to be on the lookout for terrorists and intellectual-property infringers at the same time could be confusing.
Say, for instance, you spot an unattended, and possibly counterfeit Gucci bag in an airport? Who do you call first: The Transportation Security Administration or the Justice Department?
Photo: The Associated Press