DOJ Investigators chase pirates on the high seas of intellectual property theft

Piracy funds terrorism, says U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and the Department of Justice is going to do something about it.

“While we celebrate the positive contributions of technology, we can't forget that there's a dark side to almost every innovation,” said Mukasey at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. “Every new technology we create can be abused – whether it's a common identity thief looking for a new way to steal your bank account information, or an international terrorist looking to advance a murderous plot.”

The Justice Department is committed to protecting the USA’s valuable intellectual property rights, said Mukasey, who promoted Deputy Attorney General and department official “number two” Mark Filip to the head of its IP Task Force, which is stepping up efforts in worldwide collaboration.

“International borders pose little hindrance to criminals, so we’ve been working to make sure those borders don’t pose an obstacle to effective enforcement,” he said.

Originally the domain of organized crime, terrorists are finding piracy – with its supposedly low level of risk – to be a tempting way to finance other, less aboveboard activities. “A primary goal of our IP enforcement mission is to show these criminals that they’re wrong.”

Those involved in piracy, counterfeiting, and identity theft certainly have something to worry about: 2007 saw a 33 percent increase in IP cases filed over 2005, a product of the Department’s ever-increasing international network, which now includes satellite offices in Bulgaria and Thailand to coordinate and train local enforcement efforts.

“One ongoing case resulted from years of diplomatic work with law enforcement in China, and an extensive investigation involving Chinese authorities and the FBI,” said Mukasey. “Last July, China’s Ministry of Public Security arrested 25 Chinese nationals and seized more than half a billion dollars worth of counterfeit software in the largest joint investigation ever conducted by the FBI and the People’s Republic of China.”

Historically, the Justice Department generally pursues criminal charges for IP theft where money changes hands, leaving file-sharing and the world of P2P to the graces of the content industry and its ongoing campaign of civil litigation. This comes despite frequent political efforts from content industry lobbyists, who have been trying for years to enact legislation that would essentially force the DoJ to pursue all forms of piracy – lumping Russian handbag counterfeiters and 15-year-old top-40 aficionados in the same boat.

Prior to the speech, Mukasey said he met privately with representatives from Hollywood, Adobe and Apple, but declined to say what was discussed.

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs
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