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Tom Donohue: Online Shopping Requires Vigilance

New legislation a good step toward shutting down Internet-based counterfeiting and piracy

On Nov. 29, federal officials announced the seizure of 82 Web sites dedicated to selling counterfeit goods and/or pirating copyrighted materials. By cracking down on these illegal operations, law enforcement is leading the fight against the online theft of intellectual property (IP), which harms consumers and costs American jobs.

Tom Donohue
Tom Donohue

Many of the sites that were shut down offered products aimed at holiday shoppers, including luxury goods, jewelry and DVDs. The counterfeit products sold on these Web sites don’t have to comply with government or industry standards, are frequently of poor quality, and can pose serious health or safety risks to unwary consumers.

Online counterfeiting and piracy don’t just put consumers in danger, they also eliminate jobs and weaken our economy.

According to the OECD, the global impact of counterfeiting and piracy — including online theft — was estimated to be as high as $250 billion in 2007. As this threat continues to grow, more American jobs — and a key segment of the U.S. economy — will be at risk. IP-intensive industries employ 18 million Americans and account for about 60 percent of U.S. exports.

While the digital raids conducted by law enforcement are helpful, more must be done to shut down these criminal networks. That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is calling for passage of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, introduced by Sens. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. This bill would provide enhanced legal tools to take rogue Web sites offline, help prevent their reemergence, and cut them off from the supportive services and revenue streams they need to survive.

The chamber, however, is not leaving it to government alone to solve this issue.

Through its Global Intellectual Property Center, the chamber is leading a worldwide effort to educate consumers, businesses and governments about the value of IP rights. The GIPC works closely with Congress, the administration and other stakeholders to further a pro-IP agenda.

Specifically, the GIPC is working to advance legislation to improve counterfeiting and piracy enforcement, strengthen the protection and enforcement of IP rights in the United States and abroad, fight online counterfeiting and digital theft, and promote and defend a robust international system of IP rights and norms.

In addition, the chamber and the GIPC are working to ensure that the newly created White House Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator has sufficient staff, resources and authority to strengthen U.S. government anti-counterfeiting and piracy enforcement efforts.

IP theft is a serious issue and deserves our attention not just during the holiday season but throughout the year. Click here to learn more.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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