International intellectual property enforcement

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At the end of September I attended and spoke at a conference at the United States Consulate General in Florence, Italy on “Piracy and Counterfeiting in a Digital Environment: U.S. and Italian Experience.”

I recognize fully how fortunate I am to attend these events and am deeply grateful to Cornell University, which supports these efforts as well as my hosts in Italy, John Cabot University and the U.S. Embassy in Rome. Today’s blog is prelude. Tomorrow, I will reproduce the text from which I made my remarks (my remarks were more abbreviated than the full text). These thoughts go to the heart of an argument that so many of us have been making about copyright enforcement generally for a generation now in higher education: neither our networks nor even our students, no matter how violative they have been or remain, should be the principal target of enforcement efforts. Organized, international crime is at the heart of the lion’s share of combined infringement for all intellectual property covered by federal law: copyright, patent and trademark. Moreover, as an underground market, it so far outpaces anything caused by “youth” or even “students,” — not to mention higher education networks, that it is nothing but embarrassing to keep harping on colleges and universities about this matter.

What was especially refreshing to me attending this session is that the eye was on the correct target — international, organized crime. Higher education, working together with government, and one would hope a better focused content industry, could, would and should be able to do so much more to support education about intellectual property, rule of law and a proper market system — including taxation — than dividing our energies among or between us. Between the invasion of Iraq on skewed assumptions and the unfair and discriminatory manner in which U.S. law regards higher education I.S.P.s, I shall now deem the oughts as the “Decade of Displacement.” While still early in the tenure of this decade, let us join forces to identify clearly the targets of concern. Together, we might think through ameliorative approaches that would be in support of a smarter, more efficient, healthy, global economy.

Okay, that is the summary and a little taste of what I had to say. Tomorrow’s blog will cover the introduction. Wednesday’s blog will list 1-4 copyright reforms I recommend; Thursday 6-10; Friday, conclusion. It is my belief that in order to achieve the appropriate balance in intellectual property for the digital age, that reform of intellectual property laws must be made. I am more knowledgable about copyright than the other two areas, hence my 10 recommendations. For those interested in patent, may I recommend an article today in The New York Times, The Patent Used as a Sword, that summarizes well the standard book on this matter published a decade ago, Innovation and Its Discontents, by A.B. Jaffe and J. Lerner.

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