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Hearing of Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, & Intellectual Property of the House Judiciary Committee - International Piracy:Intellectual Property


Location: Washington, DC

Hearing of Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, & Intellectual Property of the House Judiciary Committee - International Piracy:Intellectual Property


REP. BETTY SUTTON (D-OH): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And Mr. Coble has gone, but I want to thank you both for not only, of course Mr. Chairman, for holding the hearing but also for the remarks and the questions that Mr. Coble asked while he was present.

This is an extraordinarily important issue. And I see it as -- and reflecting upon Mr. Coble's words, as part of a bigger problem, that our international trading system is broken. And I have a number of questions, but I'd just like to, sort of, draw some things together.

And I was struck, Ms. Espinel, when you were talking about the privilege to protect our creative class. And I absolutely concur that this is an enormous issue and I am sympathetic and looking forward to finding ways to make this work so that our businesses and workers and -- are not left at a disadvantage in this country. But I was struck by the use of words that you chose, protect, and protect, and protect, against sort of these illegal tactics being employed by others.

When I use that language to talk about other sectors of our economy like the traditional manufacturing sector just talking about stopping unfair trading practices that are being employed, and sometime subsidized by other countries I'm called a protectionist.

Do you ever get -- are you ever called a protectionist, or do you fashion yourself --

MS. ESPINEL: (Off mike.) -- in the sense that that word is used, protectionist in terms of -- obviously my office is -- USTR as a whole are strong opponents of free trade. We see our free trade agreements; we see our free trade agenda as being a way not just to increase market access for U.S. products, but also for a way to build the world economy, and a way to help other countries build their own economy.

In terms of intellectual property protection, yes, the mission of my office is to protect American industry. But we also strongly believe that other countries have a role, a true stake in the international IP system.

There are -- one of the opportunities that we have, we've talked a lot today about challenges, one of the opportunities that we have is that there are many countries around the world that want to become innovators, that, I think, see their future as being part of the knowledge economy. And I think as that continues they will then see that they have a greater stake in the international IP system.

I think there is also a growing realization among our trading partners that while the U.S. does a tremendous amount to protect the right-holders we cannot do it alone. This problem that we are discussing of global trade, and counterfeit, and pirated goods is an era where we need increased cooperation with our trading partners.

I think more and more of some of the trading partners that share the U.S. concerns are aware of that. And USTR has been working very actively to try to capitalize on that and to try to come up with some new and creative ideas to increase that cooperation with our trading partners, because without that cooperation it is difficult for us to truly by effective.

REP. SUTTON: I appreciate your response, and I concur with the promise of trade as a tool than can lift up people worldwide, and can benefit beyond our borders, and that it should be that kind of a tool, and I am a proponent of making it that kind of a tool.

I, again, go back to the -- to my belief, and I think it's frankly also supported by the testimony that we have heard here today, that there are problems however with the gap between the promise of trade and what is actually playing out, out there.

And we are trying to find ways, not only with intellectual property, obviously both within other -- with other veins. It's a multifaceted problem, and it has to be approached in a multifaceted way.

But I was just curious, and I understand, and I don't believe that that is protectionist, what you said. But I think it's an interesting dichotomy where we hear the protection against illegal subsidies by foreign countries and one vein being called -- it's somebody who rails against that says it -- with respect to a legal dumping of steel, for example, there are protectionists if you want to do something to fix that. And I also just simply -- I'm not going to have a lot of time here. But I also just simply reject the idea that there aren't things internally that we need to be focusing our attention on also.

We heard testimony by others on the panel about the actions that the United States can and should properly take to deal with this issue and, of course, again, I believe there are actions that we can take in the rest of the facets of this huge issue of international trade.

Just -- I guess my time is up. I just wanted to know, to the extent, you know, we see these illegal subsidies from other countries. Is there -- are other -- are countries in any way complicit in the pirating of intellectual property to your knowledge other that the United States, out side of the United States?

MS. ESPINEL: That's an excellent question and a complicated one. I know we are short on time here so I'm going to speak concisely but then would be happy to follow up in more detail.

Going back to your first point on protectionism, that term is generally used for countries that are trying to protect their local industry from competition. And when we're talking about protecting intellectual property, it's exactly the opposite. We are not trying to protect our right-holders.

REP. SUTTON: With all due respect, I understand the theory of what protectionism is. That is now how that word is often used. It's also used to try to shutdown people who want to fight against unfair similar in a different vein kinds of illegal subsidies to just remove the unfair advantage to -- and have rules enforced.

Sometimes, it's used for that purpose of shutting down that debate because unfortunately there are some who are benefiting from those unfair tactics. I understand the difference between -- there is a gap here between what the word really means and how it's used. That's all my point, and I appreciate that. Thank you.

MS. ESPINEL: Exactly. And then to protect the intellectual property we are just trying -- we're trying to increase market access. We are trying to make sure that there is a market for our legitimate products overseas so that we can compete on a level playing field.

REP. SUTTON: Exactly. And I support that proposition, and I also support it in other venues.

MS. ESPINEL: With respect to your second question, government's complicity, and again, we'll be happy to follow up in more detail. There are some instances where we feel that governments themselves not only are not enforcing their laws but maybe complicit.

And one of the things that we've talked about are the illegal optical disks that have been operating on Russian military sites. That has been a enormous focus, an enormous concern. And that is one of the key commitments in the bilateral agreement with Russia to stop that.

So, again, happy that's -- happy to follow up with you in more detail. There are some instances of that. And it's something that we obviously go out at quite aggressively.

REP. SUTTON: I appreciate -- (cross talk.)

REP. BERMAN: Just -- I mean -- it's a very interesting question. And for example of one -- it is good. I think -- I don't know if we can do it right at this second. But a more comprehensive sense of countries, not that are merely not enforcing their laws, but that are actually actively facilitating the theft is one that I -- the subcommittee generally would be very interested in getting some more specifics on.

MS. ESPINEL: Well, we'll be happy to follow up.

REP. SUTTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


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