Biden Pledges More Efforts Against Internet Piracy


Vice President Joe Biden lauded Hollywood at a gala dinner in Washington on Tuesday evening, assailed movie piracy, and promised film executives that the Obama administration would pick "the right person" as its copyright czar.

Just days after four Pirate Bay defendants were found guilty in Sweden, Biden warned of the harms of piracy at a private event organized by the Motion Picture Association of America in the sumptuous, newly renovated Great Hall of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

"It's pure theft, stolen from the artists and quite frankly from the American people as consequence of loss of jobs and as a consequence of loss of income," Biden said, according to a White House pool report.

Biden blasted China, saying its intellectual property laws remain "largely ineffective" and will end up "strangling their own creative juices," and compared it to what he described as India's more effective anti-piracy regime. He singled out Canada, a close U.S. ally, as needing stronger laws; it never signed the treaty that led to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and a proposal to adopt anti-circumvention restrictions was never adopted.

He also addressed President Obama's forthcoming decision about who will be named the intellectual-property enforcement coordinator, better known as the copyright czar. Copyright industry lobbyists sent a letter Monday to the president asking him to pick someone sympathetic to their concerns, while groups that would curb copyright law sent their own letter urging the opposite approach.

We "will find the right person for intellectual property czar," Biden said.

Under a law approved by the U.S. Congress last October, Obama is required to appoint someone to coordinate the administration's IP enforcement efforts and prepare annual reports.

Senators attending the MPAA gala included Richard Durban (D-Illinois); Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.); Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.); Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota); Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont); Roger Wicker (R-Mississipi); and Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska).

An unspoken reason for the MPAA event -- which included a symposium earlier in the day with remarks from top House Democrats and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke -- was the loss of $246 million in tax breaks when the Senate revised the economic stimulus bill earlier this year. An MPAA report released Tuesday appears designed to avoid a repeat of that setback, listing the number of movies being filmed in each state.

Earlier in the day, Locke also talked up more government action against peer-to-peer piracy. "The recent revelation that an illegal copy of the upcoming movie 'Wolverine' had been posted on the Internet prior to its theatrical release underscores the problem the industry faces... As a former prosecutor, I believe in the full and impartial enforcement of the law," he said.

On copyright, President Obama has signaled a more pro-industry approach than his predecessor, which has alarmed advocates of less restrictive laws.

The president chose as top Justice Department officials the music industry attorney who pulled the plug on Grokster and another longtime Recording Industry Association of America ligitator. The Obama administration recently sided with the RIAA in a file-sharing suit, and Biden was a staunch RIAA and MPAA ally as a U.S. senator.

"I think sometimes you underestimate the impact you have, and not just entertaining but uplifting," Biden told the audience at the MPAA event. "I wish I could inspire the way you do."

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    Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.