Business group wants more money to fight intellectual piracy

A business coalition is aiming to secure during the lame-duck session more federal funding to crack down on piracy of U.S. products and counterfeit goods.

The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy, which represents moviemakers, auto parts manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies, has waged a campaign to lobby for more funding to stem the flow of fake goods into the United States. However, in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, lawmakers have focused primarily on beefing up security against acts of terrorism.

"Obviously, we are competing against terrorism, and that is most important. I always say priorities one through 10 are always terrorism and homeland security. But I hope to think that intellectual property rights is a distant eleventh. It's extremely important," said Michael Zaneis, executive director for the technology and e-commerce department at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Zaneis noted that counterfeiting and piracy has a huge economic impact on business, resulting in $250 billion in sales losses each year.

Appropriators this year have responded to such pleas. The House fiscal 2007 Science-State-Justice Appropriations bill would provide for at least $13 million for intellectual property rights enforcement, with directions that the FBI increase the number of prosecutors and agents working such cases. The Senate version of the bill would provide $6 million for such efforts.

The Senate bill also would create a unit at FBI headquarters that would house at least five full-time agents to work those cases and two additional agents for each of the agency's 18 computer hacking and intellectual property units scattered across the country.

"We like the House language, but want to get the specificity of the Senate language to make sure the money is used for these exact purposes," Zaneis said.

The coalition also is advocating passage of legislation sponsored by Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking member Max Baucus, D-Mont., that would overhaul the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. The measure would create a new intellectual property rights division within the Homeland Security Department that would coordinate anti-piracy efforts throughout the country, for example, providing staff to help confirm whether seizures at such high-traffic areas as the ports of Newark and Long Beach, Calif., are indeed counterfeit items.

Lobbyists were unsuccessful in advocating inclusion of the provisions in the recently passed port security bill. "They are spread out to some extent. We need to get them where they need to be," Zaneis said.

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