Intellectual Property Task Force?

File under – Don’t these people have enough to do already?

Add on the fact that the Department of Justice should have more than enough on their plate to keep them fully busy until the end of the President’s first term, simply taking care of the Guantanamo detainees.

The story reported on PCWorld shows that this is one time the Obama administration should stick to what they know, and what is really important, and the other stuff with either take care of itself, or wither and drop away.

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a new task force on intellectual property in an effort to crack down on a “growing number” of IP crimes in the U.S. and elsewhere, the agency announced.

Elsewhere? Should they not stick to something called their jurisdiction?

The task force, announced Friday by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, will focus on working with state, local and international law enforcement agencies to “combat intellectual property crimes,” the DOJ said in a press release.

The task force will work closely with the recently established White House Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), which has the responsibility of drafting a strategic plan on IP for President Barack Obama’s administration. The task force will recommend ways to improve IP enforcement, the DOJ said.

“The rise in intellectual property crime in the United States and abroad threatens not only our public safety but also our economic well-being,” Holder said in a statement. “The Department of Justice must confront this threat with a strong and coordinated response.”

U.S. officials have suggested that the counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals, vehicle parts and electronics can endanger the public. In some cases, pirated products also finance large criminal operations, officials have said.

It’s unclear what IP crimes the task force will focus on. A DOJ spokeswoman didn’t respond to e-mailed questions about whether the task force would focus on software, music or other IP, or whether it would focus on digital trading of music and other copyright items or on physical copies of materials protected by IP law.

Public Knowledge, a digital rights group, called on the DOJ to focus on the mass illegal reproduction of CDs, DVDs and other physical materials.

“We believe it would be a mistake, and a misuse of government resources, for the department to pursue cases against noncommercial consumer activity,” said Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge’s president.

The task force has been formed after a meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and IP industries.

After seeing news of a meeting with the people involved in this, and not one person representing the individual, it has to be wondered whether any of this should take place. Why should so much attention be paid to the needs of big business? Though piracy and theft of intellectual property is wrong – no sane person would dispute it – it also arrives at about 679th on a list of the top 500 problems that should be focussed on by the DOJ.

“Most of the discussion was held behind closed doors with industry representatives,” Sohn said in an e-mail. “We noted at the time that no consumer representatives were allowed to participate in that meeting, nor was anyone present who would speak for a balanced copyright policy. We look forward to the administration taking the time to examine both sides of these very contentious issues.”

There are some indications that the DOJ may target peer-to-peer file sharers, however. The DOJ, under Obama, has hired five former lawyers for the Recording Industry Association of America, and the DOJ this year supported a US$675,000 file-sharing verdict in Massachusetts.

The fact that this travesty was supported is a small indication that what is being concentrated on is the easily attacked, while leaving the difficult problems alone – hardly the type of thing a valiant Department of Justice should be doing. Though there is no doubt that Jammie Thomas (Rasset) was guilty, she received a fine that would make the likes of Dow Chemical or Union Carbide complain. Thomas shared a few files, she had nothing to do with the Bhopal disaster.

To those that say a message was being sent, I would ask, “What message?” If it was that our government will attack the easily attacked while leaving the real, (violent) criminals alone, that message arrived loud and clear.

Once again, we see that the idea of crime and punishment in these United States is all askew. People who commit crimes involving sums of money get life sentences, while people who make the conscious decision to end another human life are out in seven years.

Inane and ridiculous? You bet.

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