Justice Dept. to Re-Focus on Intellectual Property

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By Andrew Flanagan

The fight against digital piracy, seemingly lost by the time U.S. introduced the toothless and too-late Copyright Alert System, appears to have woken up from its long nap. The RIAA and FBI recently shut down Sharebeast, the web’s most prolific music piracy site. Russia’s Facebook analog VKontakte lost a major case this week (though avoided paying damages), and the country’s government just announced its intention to de-fang pirate sites by shaming their advertisers.

To that end, the U.S. Justice Department today announced a “new collaborative strategy” that will bring the DoJ and FBI in closer collaboration with businesses as they work to combat intellectual property infringement. “High-profile instances of hacking — even against large companies like Sony and Target — have demonstrated the seriousness of the threat all businesses face and have underscored the potential for sophisticated adversaries to inflict real and lasting harm,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement. The announcementfocuses heavily on “third-party marketplaces” (i.e. eBay) and counterfeit goods.

As well, the DoJ announced a disbursement of funds totaling $3.2 million that will go to ten local enforcement departments, mostly police, in order to assist with intellectual property and copyright infringement enforcement. The awards range in size, from the oddly specific $120,174 Baltimore Country’s Police Dept. will receive to the $400,000 being given to the Austin and San Antonio Police Depts. and the Cook County State Attorney (which holds jurisdiction over Chicago).

Given that most counterfeit and piracy activity spans borders of both state and country, investigation and prosecution is usually left to federal or intergovernmental agencies. Under Lynch’s new directive, it would appear local enforcement agencies will take on an expanded role as these collaborative efforts are undertaken.

The hack of Sony Entertainment last year galvanized rights holders and the arms of justice they rely on to find and prosecute the men and women in black hats. But as the brazen launch of Aurous looms, and the requirements put on rights holders to request takedowns recently became even more difficult, the fight against piracy is not close to closure — but everyone now seems well awake.

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