President Biden, creatives need copyright champions in the federal government
My creative communities desperately need an ally in the Biden administration, not an opponent, as a number of President Biden’s appointees have been. That is why I am calling for President Biden to appoint a champion of copyright for the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) position.
After 30+ years of working as an indie film distributor, I became CreativeFuture’s CEO out of a deep concern for how the arts were being challenged in the digital age. And nine years later, I am saddened to report that the state of affairs is not improving.
Our nonprofit coalition includes over 500 companies or organizations, as well as over 240,000 individual members – and whether they work in film, television, music, photography, publishing, or similar industries, their livelihoods depend on copyright and effective anti-piracy measures.
That’s why we’re asking President Biden to appoint at least one person to his administration who will work to protect those livelihoods.
The copyright industries bring not only cultural but also economic prosperity to our country. They contribute $1.5 trillion per year of value to the U.S. GDP, accounting for 7.41 percent of the national economy. U.S. copyright products sold overseas amounted to nearly $219 billion in sales in 2019 – more than other major industries including pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and agriculture.
President Biden has personally demonstrated long-standing support for the creative industries. As a senator 20 years ago, he convened a hearing called “Theft of American Intellectual Property: Fighting Crime Abroad and at Home.” As vice president, over 10 years ago, he helped to implement a new law that created the Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. Unequivocally, he stated, “Piracy is theft. Clean and simple.”
Given this strong track record, our communities are disheartened by some of President Biden’s recent appointments to influential positions in the government. Some of these candidates have repeatedly advanced Big Tech’s policy agenda while downplaying the threat of online piracy. Powerful companies in Silicon Valley have preyed on creatives for decades, growing rapidly off “free” access to creative works. Meanwhile, many of the jobs and companies that create our entertainment, for America and the world, have disappeared.
Infringing content draws users to platforms, helping to fuel Big Tech’s ascent to previously inconceivable heights of wealth. Meanwhile, digital pirates are stealing the rightful earnings of hard-working Americans, facilitated by Big Tech. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that digital piracy takes between $29.2 billion and $71 billion from the national economy every year. It also takes away between 230,000 and 560,000 American jobs.
Once confirmed, copyright skeptics will predictably make bad copyright decisions. Those decisions won’t just impact large corporations. Although it may surprise some, the fact is that 87 percent of the companies in the film and television industry are small businesses that employ fewer than 10 people. They work very hard – many work long hours, many must be far from home – as part of a collaborative effort to entertain the world. They receive critically important compensation, made possible by copyright laws, to pay for their health insurance, retirement, and children’s educations.
I remain hopeful that President Biden’s future appointments will better reflect his lengthy and strong record in support of respect for copyright. Specifically, the position of U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) is open once again.
As the president knows better than anyone else, the person serving in the IPEC’s role oversees Executive Office efforts to curb piracy, domestically and abroad. The previous IPEC was confirmed by the Senate in August of 2017 – today, during a critical moment for the creative communities, the position is vacant.
As piracy rates hit all-time highs and the creative communities struggle to bounce back after pandemic closures, we need an ally to represent us in the federal government. We need someone with extensive real-world experience fighting piracy. And we need that person to start helping us now.
So, today, we ask President Biden to please ensure that the next IPEC is someone who fights to protect creative livelihoods instead of weakening them. Our creative communities need the president’s support, and we are counting on it.
Ruth Vitale is the CEO of CreativeFuture, a nonprofit coalition of over 500 companies and organizations and nearly 260,000 individuals devoted to promoting the value of creativity in the digital age. She has held top posts at Paramount Classics, Fine Line Features, and New Line Cinema.
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