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Meet Obama’s new “piracy czar,” same as the old czar

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The White House this week nominated a trademark and licensing lawyer to be “piracy czar,” a position that involves coordinating intellectual property enforcement across various parts of the federal government. The new czar, Danny Marti, arrives a year after the previous czar, Victoria Espinel left to head a software lobby group.

The choice of Marti, a partner at Washington law firm Kilpatrick Townsend, was hailed by Hollywood lobbyists.

“Danny’s impressive record of commitment to enforcing IP rights in the Internet age makes him a particularly strong choice,” former senator Chris Dodd, who is now CEO of the Motion [company]Picture Association of America[/company], told Variety. An executive from the [company]Recording Industry of America[/company] offered similar plaudits.

Marti, whose appointment must be confirmed by the Senate, is likely to devote most of his efforts to shutting down websites that distribute unauthorized media and branded merchandise.

His predecessor, Espinel, oversaw programs like the “Copyright Alert System,” for ISP’s and copyright owners, and “Operation in Our Sites,” in which enforcement officials conducted ritual seizure of websites ahead of events like the Super Bowl and Black Friday. Espinel also handled the White House’s response to the debacle known as SOPA, in which outrage from internet communities led Congress to retreat from a sweeping new anti-piracy law.

Marti himself has yet to say what he would do as piracy czar, but it’s hard to imagine he will chart a course much difference than Espinel’s.

That’s a shame. Leaving aside the U.S. fixation with “czar” titles, it’s worth asking why the intellectual property czar must focus exclusively on enforcement, and not on broader issues of fostering science and creativity — which is the point of IP laws in the first place.

While rights owners certainly have legitimate concerns over piracy, there is no reason why the White House czar can’t also spend his time on other IP-related problems such as curbing abusive copyright enforcement and patent trolls. The actions of the trolls can undercut respect for intellectual property in the same way that piracy does and, in the long run, stopping the trolls could win more sympathy for Hollywood in its campaign against the pirates.

An earlier version of this story referred to Marti as an “entertainment industry” lawyer. I’ve updated to say “trademark and licensing lawyer” (Marti’s ful bio here

Czar Nicholas II

4 Responses to “Meet Obama’s new “piracy czar,” same as the old czar”

  1. So far they haven’t succeeded in anything but “seeding” the idea of pirating to more and more folks which exponentially makes their job harder and targets more diverse by the SECOND. Oh the irony waaahahahah :)

  2. mjack_city

    Good start to something that should have been solved a while ago in conjunction with the US govt. and the entertainment industry. The Internet can support many layers of business processes. Build the infrastructure to support legit gateways for audio/video data and with that build a layer of secure IP and commerce transactions. ITunes and other portals create a closed and limited network of transactions. But, what do I know. I am a total idiot. Peace.

  3. Robert J. Berger

    We don’t need a Piracy Czar in the Government. We need the anti-trust divisions to do their job and break up all the oligopolies that are using the Government to enforce their artificial scarcity.

    Banks, Telcos, Cablecos, Oil Companies, Airlines should all be broken up and most of their top executives should be sent to jail for treason and bribery.

  4. MaxwellSmart

    Why would he do a thing like that? The laws are working to keep the wealthy happy. “Stopping patent trolls” to them is stopping VirnetX from taking away money from wealthy Apple, not stopping Apple from killing competition with rounded corner patents. This guy knows his place. He’s going to chase kids for torrenting box office flops like Expendables 3.