June 23, 2010 | By Fred von Lohmann

IPEC Releases "Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement"

Yesterday, the Obama Administration's Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), Victoria Espinel, released the "Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement" that Congress ordered up when it created the IPEC position. The plan lays out 33 "enforcement action items" grouped in 6 categories, which are helpfully summarized in a two-page chart. The plan is the result of a months-long public process in which EFF submitted comments.

Overall, the plan is chiefly about what the federal government can do to better coordinate its own enforcement efforts over a whole host of areas, such as blocking trafficking in counterfeit medicines, rooting out infringing software among federal contractors, and improving communication between federal and state enforcement agencies. Many of these efforts are laudable, aimed at increasing the efficiency and transparency of our government agencies. And the plan explicitly recognizes the importance of fair use and balance in the U.S. legal system.

With respect to the specific action items, TechDirt has done a nice job summarizing some of the more controversial recommendations. The plan embraces ACTA, which may be troubling depending on whether that proposed agreement is revised to "ditch the crazy stuff." It also calls for the feds to continue "facilitating cooperation" among "the business community to reduce Internet piracy." And there is quite a bit of emphasis on enforcement against "foreign pirate websites," without much specificity about what, exactly, "enforcement" might mean in this context.

But from EFF's perspective, the most important aspect of the plan is the one that has just begun: a 120-day "comprehensive review of existing intellectual property laws to determine needed legislative changes."

The IPEC will initiate and coordinate a process, working with Federal agencies, to review existing laws—whether they impose criminal and/or civil liability—to ensure that they are effectively reaching the appropriate range of infringing conduct, including any problems or gaps in scope due to changes in technologies used by infringers. ... The initial review process will conclude within 120 days from the date of the submission of this Joint Strategic Plan to Congress. The Administration, coordinated through the IPEC, will recommend to Congress any proposed legislative changes resulting from this review process.

This is the action item to watch. Remember, the last time the feds did a "comprehensive review" of intellectual property, we got the infamous 1995 IITF "White Paper," the document that was the genesis of the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. Let's hope the IPEC "review" yields something more positive.

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