Register of Copyrights: Fight piracy by ‘cutting off’ sites

The U.S. government made it clear recently (if there was ever any doubt) that it’s very interested in helping companies defend their IP rights and cracking down on infringing acts.

In creating new committees that oversee the Executive Administration’s plans and tapping anti-piracy crusader Neil MacBride in 2009 as associate deputy attorney general (he’s since become the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia), the White House proved it was serious about IP theft.

Now, another government official has come forth with bold words against piracy sites, and a plan.

Register of Copyrights: Fight piracy by 'cutting off' sites
Source: Library of Congress

Acting Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante referred to those who run illicit piracy sites as “parasites” during a hearing with a House of Representatives Subcommittee on Monday.

Referencing lax legal follow-through as an underlying reason such sites remain active, Pallante said, “The parasites who operate so-called rogue websites build businesses on piracy, counterfeiting and other unlawful activity, in part based on the expectation of weak enforcement.”

Pallante described one way to fight illegal sites and internet pirates. “These parasites could be cut off from payment mechanisms and advertising revenues in the United States,” she explained. “This could combat their very existence, or at least substantially decrease their impact on the market for legitimate copyrighted content.”

Techdirt points out various problems with this plan — chief among them that a massive missive – “Media Piracy in Emerging Economies” – penned by the Social Science Research Council decries the notion that starving piracy sites will fix anything.

The report, which offers a hard look at both the bloom of piracy within countries like Russia and Mexico and overall industry efforts to counter it with litigation, found that, much like what Pallante alluded, enforcement of anti-piracy laws is difficult, if not impossible.

“There is…no realistic way to reconcile mass enforcement and due process, especially in countries with severely overburdened legal systems,” reads the report.

Sound familiar?

Contrary to Pallante’s thoughts, the researchers argued piracy is not the business of “parasites,” but a natural result of a “failure of affordable access to media in legal markets.” The way to address the broader problem then is not by taking transgressors to court, but rethinking the way products and services are made available — and priced.