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U.S. Dept. of Justice Cracks Down on Piracy

We’ve all heard the moral and economic reasons not to support piracy, but U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey has highlighted a new facet of intellectual property (IP) theft to ponder: its ability fund other criminal activity. In a speech delivered on Friday in San Jose, Calif., Mukasey outlined the threat piracy poses to the United States, and the government’s new plans to cut down on it.

“Counterfeiting and piracy generate huge profits, much of it flowing to organized crime,” he told a crowd gathered at the Tech Museum of Innovation. “Criminal syndicates, and in some cases even terrorist groups, view IP crime as a lucrative business, and see it as a low-risk way to fund other activities. A primary goal of our IP enforcement mission is to show these criminals that they’re wrong.”

Besides its potential for putting dollars into the wrong hands, Mukasey also expressed concern that pirated products could rob business from the rightful owners of copyrights, and erode consumer confidence by flooding the market with shoddy imitations.

In response to this threat, the Department of Justice has stepped up its prosecution of pirates through all of its branches, including the Intellectual Property Task Force and the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of its Criminal Division. “We’re devoting more resources and more personnel to IP crime, and we’re sending the important message that we take these crimes seriously, and we will punish the actions of counterfeiters and pirates whenever we can,” Mukasey said.

The DOJ’s elevated piracy awareness can already be seen. In 2007, the DOJ filed 33 percent more IP theft cases than just two years ago in 2005. Mukasey also cited several individual examples, such as the case of two San-Jose-based piracy ring leader sentenced to three years in jail in August, and four Florida men prosecuted for selling pirated business software online in February.

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