The Obameter

Protect American intellectual property abroad

"Will work to ensure intellectual property is protected in foreign markets, and promote greater cooperation on international standards that allow our technologies to compete everywhere."


Anti-counterfeiting trade agreement gets it done

Intellectual property right infringement has emerged as a prominent issue in the ever-expanding realm of international trade. American companies lose millions worldwide each year due to copyright infringement and piracy, particularly in emerging markets. The Business Software Alliance, a trade group representing American software creators, placed the value of pirated software worldwide in 2010 at $59 billion. It is in response to this issue that President Barack Obama promised to shore up copyright enforcement during the 2008 election.

In an effort to combat this problem, on October 1, 2011, the United States and seven other nations signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The other seven are Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, South Korea, and Singapore. The European Union, Mexico, and Switzerland are also expected to sign the agreement.

The compact essentially brings the copyright enforcement mechanisms that the U.S. uses domestically to the international stage. The agreement mimics the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act in that it moves to ban the sale of devices used to copy DVDs and other media. The agreement also requires that each country's legal system provide a forum for intellectual property right holders to be awarded damages in court.

Film studios and software developers support the trade agreement but are still pushing Congress to enact legislation. Given the intransigence of the current Congress over passing almost any legislation, this may be awhile. In fact, the agreement has created some controversy, as the Obama administration insists that it does not require confirmation, while other groups contend that it does.

While more substantive action could be taken, we feel that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement meets the standards that Obama outlined  in his promise. It works "to ensure intellectual property is protected in foreign markets” and "promote greater cooperation on international standards.” As a result, we rate this Promise Kept.


Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, full text.

Business Software Alliance, "Eighth Annual BSA Global Software Piracy Study,” May 2011.

Business Software Alliance, "Eighth Annual BSA Global Software Piracy Study -- In Brief,” May 2011.

U.S. Governmental Accountability Office, "Intellectual Property: Observations on Efforts to Quantify the Economic Effects of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods,” April 12, 2010.

National Journal, "U.S. Signs Counterfeiting Agreement on Saturday,” September 30, 2011.

Wired, "U.S. Signs International Anti-Piracy Accord,” October 3, 2011.

Wired, "Scholars Say International Property Accord Needs Senate Approval,” October 28, 2010.

Biden hosts summit on protecting intellectual property from piracy

On Dec. 15, Vice President Joe Biden hosted a round table on enforcing laws that protect intellectual property against piracy.

Biden was joined by other officials, including Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FBI director Robert Mueller, as well as CEOs from major media companies, union representatives and legal experts. The White House said the meeting brought together stakeholders "to discuss ways to combat intellectual property piracy in this rapidly changing technological age ."

The Obama administration said it plans to draw on law enforcement and trade agreements to require compliance with copyright laws.

The meeting brought together some of the top administration officials to work on protecting intellectual property abroad. So we rate this promise In the Works.


Associated Press, Government plans crackdown on copyright theft , Dec. 15, 2009

U.S. Department of Commerce, Secretary Locke Joins Vice President Biden in White House Roundtable on Enforcing Laws Against IP Piracy , Dec. 15, 2009