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Remarks at Copyright Policy in the Internet Economy Symposium

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
July 01, 2010

It is great to be here today.

I know many of you have travelled from different parts of the country, and I want to thank you for coming. 

The topic of today's symposium, “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Internet Economy,” is timely. 

It is important.

This morning, Larry Strickling talked a bit about the impressive growth in the Internet economy, even in the midst of major economic challenges.

That’s particularly true when it comes to copyrighted works.

Sales of digital music downloads in the United States cleared $3 billion in 2009, a 19 percent increase above 2008.

We saw over $300 million in revenues from the sale of e-books in 2009, an increase of 177 percent from the previous year.

And revenues from subscriptions for online games reached $2.8 billion in 2009. 

And the impact of these trends is more than just economic.

America's creative industries shape how we see ourselves, and how the world sees us as well.  Our copyrighted works continue to be one of the best global marketing tools for the possibilities that exist in America.

These growth trends in America's creative industries need to be preserved and cultivated. 

In these difficult economic times, nothing is more important to American prosperity than jumpstarting our engine of innovation.

For too long, the American economy has been on a path of illusory growth – one driven by speculation and debt-fueled consumption. 

The United States simply must get back to cultivating industries and lines of scientific discovery that provide long-term benefits to society and spur sustainable innovation. 

That's the type of work that many of you are involved with every day.  

As I look around the room, I am pleased to see so many representatives of the technology, rightsholder, academic, and civil society sectors actively participating in the symposium.

We clearly have the right people here to help find the sweet spot on Internet policy – one that ensures the Internet remains an engine of creativity and innovation; and a place where we do a better job protecting against piracy of copyrighted works.

Issues of Internet policy are hardly new to the Department of Commerce.  In fact, from the first emergence of the Internet, the Department of Commerce has been at the forefront of policy discussion and analysis.

As early as 1993, the White House formed the Information Infrastructure Task Force, chaired by then Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, to develop telecommunications and information policies that would promote development of the Internet. 

Almost twenty years later, we have built upon the tradition established by the Clinton administration through the creation of a Commerce-wide Internet Policy Task Force. 

This Task Force draws upon the expertise of many bureaus in the Department, including the Patent Office, and NTIA, as well as the International Trade Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Together, we hope to identify leading public policy and operational challenges in the Internet environment. 

The Task Force has already held listening sessions, and issued a Notice of Inquiry on the critical issue of information privacy on the Internet.  The Task Force is now engaging in similar processes in the areas of copyright, cybersecurity, and the global free flow of information.

Today we turn to the critical issue of copyright.  The USPTO and the NTIA, are the lead agencies on the copyright effort.  You have already heard from Larry Strickling, the head of NTIA, and you will shortly be hearing from Dave Kappos, the head of the USPTO.

PTO and NTIA have already held more than a dozen listening sessions that provided much of the raw material to shape today's agenda.

It's appropriate that we began this symposium with a discussion on the economic impact of online copyright infringement, because that's an issue that is undoubtedly at the top of many of your minds. 

This is a global concern, and U.S. companies – particularly those operating in many emerging economies – are facing endemic IP theft that is costing them money and jobs.

That is why the USPTO has an IP attaché program that places IP experts in embassies around the world; as well as a Global Intellectual Property Academy which trains officials around the world in IP enforcement.

Government officials in the United States and around the world must constantly keep up with the evolving methods of copyright pirates.    

In addition to unauthorized distribution of copyrighted works using peer-to-peer file sharing technology, other technologies, such as cyberlockers and streaming are becoming increasingly prevalent. 

And while person-to-person file sharing can sometimes be stopped by Internet Service Providers (or ISPs) cracking down on users, that approach does not seem to work as well with cyberlockers and streaming.

As innovators continue to come up with new and more creative business models to deliver content to users, we will likely see a parallel increase in the avenues open for infringement.

Of course, at the same time that we work to combat piracy, we need to stay mindful of the benefits that robust information flows have on the innovation process and on society overall.

Policymakers like those of us here must continually look for the right balance in our policy recommendations.

In the United States, our digital content businesses, and indeed the Internet more generally, operate against the background of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which was passed in 1998.  That law exemplifies a balance of roles and responsibilities among stakeholders when it comes to copyright protection. 

Twelve years on, we still face the challenge of making sure the balance works.  Are we doing what we can to combat online infringement of copyrighted works; while at the same time ensuring the robust expansion of e-commerce, communications, research, development, and education in the digital age?

Of course, one of the key players in achieving this balance is our Internet Service Providers.

The Millennium Copyright Act providers a safe harbor from liability for copyright infringement in many areas, so long as the ISP has policies to respond in a meaningful way to allegations of infringement.

Throughout the rest of today, we’re going to have discussions of current roles and responsibilities of intermediaries – like ISPs under the Millennium Copyright Act – as well as a broader look at how the Act is working overall. 

My colleagues from throughout the Commerce Department have taken great pains to ensure that today's symposium hits all the relevant areas of concern and interest when it comes to copyright protection. 

In the next few hours, you will be hearing from Victoria Espinel, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.

And Cam Kerry, the Commerce Department’s General Counsel will be discussing how we can blend the various parts of Internet copyright policy into a coherent whole.

You have a lot to discuss today, and I'm looking forward to getting feedback from this meeting to continue improving America's online copyright protections.

With that, I'd like to hand things off to Anna Gomez our, Deputy Administrator at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.  Anna will be moderating a panel on Emerging Infringement Areas.

Anna. . . .