Leahy Urges Holistic Approach To Content Protection

Senate Judiciary chairman urges World Copyright Summit participants to work together

Calling the $1 trillion in online intellectual property theft the Obama administration identified last year "shocking" and "totally unacceptable," Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told a World Copyright Summit Wednesday that the participants needed to get over their differences and work together on copyright protection.

"If somebody went to a bank and stole $20 million, there would be headlines everywhere," he said. "We have to protect intellectual property, but we have to do it in a way to promote its growth." He added that preventing such theft remained "a high priority" for him.

Leahy said that there needs to be a comprehensive and coordinated IP-protection strategy. But he also conceded that the technology moves faster than Congress' ability to keep up with it. It also extends beyond Congress' reach.

"The online world doesn't recognize international boundaries," he said, suggesting that fighting online IP theft can not be a case of different countries saying, "'OK, we're just going to protect ourselves.' It doesn't work that way any more."

Saying an overhaul of copyright protections was long overdue, Leahy pointed out that since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed in 1998, broadband adoption has tripled, paving the way for companies like Google.

He pointed out that over-the-air broadcasters in the U.S. are about to make the switch-over to the digital world June 12. "The digital world brings with it the perils of piracy for content owners," he added.

Leahy said that all content sectors, entertainment, news, music, have to work together as well. "Either we are all protected," he said, "or none are."

The Judiciary Committee has a number of copyright issues on its plate, including a bill granting per-performance rights for radio airplay and re-authorization of the blanket license for satellite delivery of distant signals.

The second annual conference was sponsored by CISAC, the International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies.