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Gov't efforts target online counterfeits much more than digital piracy

Grant Gross | April 2, 2012
Two U.S. agencies seized 270 websites in 2011 for alleged copyright infringement, but just 22 of those sites were targeted for digital piracy, with the rest allegedly selling counterfeit products, according to the annual report from the government's intellectual-property enforcement coordinator.

But Espinel's report repeats earlier concerns about unnamed copyright legislation. A January response to concerns about the two bills "recognizes that online piracy is a serious problem, but also makes it clear that the administration will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk (including authority to tamper with the DNS system), or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet," the report said.

The DOJ brought intellectual property charges against 215 defendants in 168 cases during the government's 2011 fiscal year, the report said. Both the number of cases and the number of defendants were the lowest in the past five years.

The DOJ also saw 208 defendants sentenced for IP-related charges in fiscal year 2011, with 102 defendants receiving no prison term. Sixty defendants received prison terms of two years or less, while 29 received prison terms of 37 months or longer.

Digital rights group Public Knowledge praised parts of the report, including its emphasis on increasing transparency in the administration's IP enforcement efforts. But the report relies on copyright infringement numbers from copyright holders, when some of those numbers may not be reliable, the group said.

The report also shows that "the content industries have a vast array of tools already at their disposal to enforce their rights" beyond new legislation, said John Bergmayer, a senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge, in an email.


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