Proponents of Tougher Intellectual Property Law Try to Shift Debate

U.S. Chamber IP study details IP contribution to jobs, economy

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, joined by three senators, today reopened the debate over protecting U.S. intellectual property with a new report connecting the IP economy with jobs.

It was the first public outing for the chamber since earlier this year when the Internet community staged a Web blackout that effectively shut down the advancement of SOPA and PIPA, two bills that have now become dirty words on the Internet. The two bills, supported by the chamber and big media companies, would have put in place tougher IP laws that the Internet community feared would cripple their First Amendment rights and shut down the Internet.

Since then, the debate has been relatively quiet and neither side admits to holding any discussions about how to protect U.S. IP, which the chamber’s report said created more than 55.7 million jobs and accounted for more than $1 trillion or 74 percent of all total U.S. exports in 2011.

Now, it appears that proponents of tougher IP legislation are trying again by shifting the debate, which up until now has pitted Hollywood against Silicon Valley as each side tried to demonize the other.

Speakers during today's press conference admitted their earlier approach didn’t work.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told reporters that he knew SOPA and PIPA were in trouble when one of his twin 13-year-old sons woke him up in the middle of the night to ask him why he wanted to break the Internet and why Justin Bieber thought he should go to jail. “That was my first warning that we were not communicating effectively," Coons said. “We didn’t succeed in getting our message across.”

The chamber trotted out IP examples far from the Hollywood movie set, such as counterfeit malaria medicine, to Sen. Pat Roberts' (R-Kan.) example of GPS technology used in agriculture for planting and irrigation.

“Intellectual property protection isn’t just about music labels and movie studios. It’s about more than just students in college dorms downloading pirated copies of the latest song. It’s about safety for consumers and about jobs for American workers and American families, and it affects every single state in the United States,” Coons said.

The study is ready-made for lobbying, detailing the number of jobs IP creates in each state. No surprise that California (where the movie studios are) is first with more than 7 million jobs. Texas is second with 4.6 million jobs. Illinois is third with 2.8 million jobs.

For now, as proponents work to alter the debate, no one is talking about any new bills. “We’re focused at this point on showing that IP is a critical part of the economy,” said Steve Tepp, the chief intellectual property counsel for the chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center.