White House Pushes More Voluntary Actions to Protect IP

Enforcement czar reaches out to private sector for help

The White House intends to reach out to search engines, data storage services, and domain-name registrars to adopt a set of best practices for protecting U.S. intellectual property.

The action item was one of many outlined in the Administration's 98-page annual report on IP enforcement.

"Together with law enforcement efforts, private sector voluntary actions can dramatically reduce online infringement and change the enforcement paradigm," the report, released Thursday, said.

Protecting America's intellectual property has been a key goal of the Obama Administration, but achieving it in the online world has been anything but easy—almost like a game of whack-a-mole. While the U.S. has stepped up law enforcement, new laws have been slow going, if not rocky, ever since the Internet community shut down SOPA.

Encouraging voluntary actions in the private sector has been a "deliberate" approach, said Victoria Espinel, the U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator Thursday with the release of the report, which singles out several private sector voluntary programs.

For example, ISPs including AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon, Time Warner Cable joined with music labels and movie studios to develop a series of six copyright alerts to notify users when it appears they are illegally downloading movies, TV shows or other copyrighted content. To choke off the money going to rogue sites, American Express, Discover, MasterCard, PayPal and Visa developed a set of best practices to withdraw payment services for online sales of counterfeit and pirated goods. And the 4As and Association of National Advertisers pledged and are working towards making sure rogue sites aren't supported by advertising revenue.

Advancing existing programs and bringing in other private sectors, like search engines, appears to be the next step.

"We will continue to facilitate and encourage dialogue among different private sector entities that make the Internet function, which may include domain name registries and registrars; search engines; and cyber lockers and other types of storage services," the report said.

The media and entertainment businesses, which have lost billions in copyright theft, applauded the new plan.

"As the Administration points out repeatedly throughout the report, all involved parties, from ISPs to payment processors to ad networks to search engines, share a responsibility to ensure the protection of creative work," said former Sen. Chris Dodd, who's now CEO and chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, in a statement.

"With this new plan, the White House IP Czar continues to provide impressive leadership for ensuring that this country's creativity, technical invention and innovation benefit the U.S. economy and U.S. workers," added Rick Cotton, evp and general counsel for NBCUniversal.