Digital piracy is ‘unadulterated theft’, says Obama administration
Music piracy is a ‘growing threat’ and should be ‘dealt with accordingly’, says US Commerce Secretary.
Gary Locke, the US Commerce Secretary, said that digital piracy threatened America’s economic competitiveness.
In a speech at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, Mr Locke called on internet service providers and copyright holders to “work collaboratively” to combat digital piracy.
He echoed comments made by Joe Biden, the US Vice-President, who said piracy was “unadulterated theft” and should be dealt with accordingly.
“This isn’t just an issue of right and wrong,” said Mr Locke. “This is a fundamental issue of America’s economic competitiveness.”
He said that the US government’s Commerce Department was working on new policies for copyright protection and innovation that could be applied to all areas of President Obama’s administration.
“We are trying to figure out how we shut out the pirates, while preserving the internet as an avenue for commerce for music and for other creative industries,” he said.
Mr Locke said the internet was a “double-edged sword” which both threatened traditional business models as well as provided new opportunities.
“On the one hand, online copyright infringement is a growing threat, with cyberlockers as well as peer-to-peer, file sharing, streaming and user generated content sites providing a constant challenge to the music industry,” he said. “But the internet, if used correctly, can be a great growth engine.”
Mr Locke has pledged his support to international efforts to strengthen copyright law, and for the enforcement of existing laws and penalties against digital pirates. He said that it was the artists and songwriters who stood to lose the most from illegal filesharing.
"Recently, I've had a chance to read letters from award winning writers and artists whose livelihoods have been destroyed by music piracy,” he told the audience at Belmont University.
”One letter that stuck out for me was a guy who said the songwriting royalties he had depended on to 'be a golden parachute to fund his retirement had turned out to be a lead balloon.' This just isn't right."
However, some industry experts have questioned the wisdom of Mr Locke’s position.
“It's really quite stunning how either uninformed Locke is or how purposely misleading he is,” wrote Mike Masnick, an influential technology blogger, on the Techdirt website.
“Locke conveniently ignores the fact that if you look beyond recorded music, overall spending on music and music related products has gone way up and, more importantly, much more of that money goes directly to artists, rather than to the middlemen.
“No one should confuse copyright law with innovation, ingenuity and creativity. The two are not the same and, the research has shown, not even correlated.
“Copyright was never supposed to be about welfare or a pension. Copyright has always been about providing the incentive to create in order to more freely share works with the world ... That Locke appears to think that copyright is supposed to be a musician's pension and welfare program is especially troubling. It suggests he doesn't even know what copyright law is.”