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Obama administration to educate public on fakes

US attorney general Eric Holder Tuesday announced a new public service campaign linking counterfeit products to criminal gangs and US job losses

The White House briefing featured Holder, US IP enforcement coordinator Victoria Espinel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director John Morton, and Commerce Department acting deputy secretary Rebecca Blank.

Holder said Tuesday that the administration was partnering with a nonprofit, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), in a series of public service announcements warning against purchasing counterfeit goods. NCPC is perhaps best known for its American cartoon character McGruff the Crime Dog.

“Enforcement is only part of the solution,” Morton said, after noting that ICE and the FBI had launched 1,200 criminal investigations of counterfeiting in 2011, often in partnership with Canada, Mexico and Interpol countries. “What we’re trying to do,” Morton said of the administration, “is blend enforcement with public outreach”.

Administration officials repeatedly cited loss of jobs and economic output related to IP theft. Blank said IP had a “multiplier effect” in the US economy, with downstream industries such as online retailers benefiting from the sale of copyrighted works and semiconductor manufacturers benefiting from the use of computers to design and run copyrighted software.

The explicit inclusion of Silicon Valley industries by Blank was notable, given that leading tech companies are actively campaigning against rogue site legislation. They were joined in opposition about a week ago by the Business Software Alliance, traditionally a strong supporter of IP enforcement legislation.

“We’ve never really had a good idea of how many jobs in America depend on intellectual property,” Blank said. But she promised that “in the next coming weeks the Economics and Statistics Administration, the USPTO and the Department of Commerce are going to be releasing a new report, the first of its kind, that identifies the industries and the businesses that rely heavily on IP to be successful and who benefits the most from copyrights, patents and trade marks”.

“This study is going to show that IP supports tens of millions of jobs and contributes trillions of dollars to our economy,” Blank predicted.

The PSAs will appear on TV, radio, in print, online and in shopping malls, said NCPC president Ann Harkins. The target demographic is adults age 18-30. A NCPC study, she said, found that “the lure of the bargain overcomes the moral compass almost every time” and the PSAs are meant to reverse that trend.

The PSAs were played before an enthusiastic audience comprising IP lobbyists from the entertainment and pharmaceutical industries. The short videos and audio focused on the criminals behind counterfeit goods, others on US job losses, and others on artists being deprived of income. In a radio ad, Holder states that if you purchase a counterfeit good, you are “supporting gangs… trafficking in drugs and guns”.

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