US turns its sights on China in intellectual property battle

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The US is taking its gloves off in the fight over intellectual property, and says it plans to go after foreign websites that encourage piracy.

At a meeting yesterday with cabinet officials., vice president Joe Biden likened piracy to 'smash and grab', and said the country's first intellectual property enforcement plan would be an effective tool to combat it.

"The American economy is driven by the innovation and creativity of its people.  We need to protect the ideas and artistry that has made us so successful," says Victoria Espinel, the US intellectual property enforcement coordinator. 

"We need to make sure we protect our citizens from the risks to public health and safety posed by criminal activity and by dangerous counterfeits."

A central part of the plan is a pledge to enforce US intellectual property rights abroad.

"In that regard, we will initiate a comprehensive review of current efforts in support of US businesses that have difficulty enforcing their intellectual property rights in overseas markets, with a particular focus on China," said Espinel.

China's leading search engine, Baidu, was recently highlighted in a report from the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus as being one of the world's worst offenders, and is believed to account for as much as three-quarters of illegal music downloads in the country.

"This plan is an important step forward in combating intellectual property theft and protecting the millions of jobs and businesses that rely so heavily on copyrights, patents and trademarks and help drive the American economy," says Bob Pisano, president and interim CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

"As the industry moves to provide new and innovative ways to deliver creative content to consumers, particularly over the internet, it is especially critical that the United States has an effective framework for protecting creative content online and enforcing intellectual property rights in the digital environment."