Van Nuys, CA – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today launched an initiative to protect U.S.-based industries against copyright piracy abroad by urging other countries to enforce intellectual property rights.

At a field hearing of committee, Berman announced “the start of a concerted effort to capitalize on opportunities that are unique to this committee. Through our oversight of international programs, travel and longstanding relationships with policymakers around the world, we plan to work more closely with other governments to provide the resources, training, legal guidance and tools which they need to alleviate the international piracy that is so devastating to American ingenuity – and American jobs.”

The hearing examined the damage done to the U.S. entertainment industry by a range of illicit activities, from sales of pirated CDs to illegally downloading movies from the Internet. Testimony was provided by Steven Soderbergh, National Vice President of the Directors Guild of America; Richard Cook, Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios; Michael F. Miller, Jr., International Vice President of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE); Zach Horowitz, President and Chief Operating Officer of Universal Music Group; and Timothy P. Trainer, President of Global Intellectual Property Strategy Center, P.C.

According to the International Intellectual Property Alliance, copyright infringement in 43 countries caused an estimated $18.3 billion in trade losses in 2007. The Motion Picture Association of America noted that the film industry lost $6.1 billion in 2005 due to motion picture piracy. The music industry estimates there were more than 40 billion illegal downloads in 2008. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has found that trade in counterfeited goods is responsible for the loss of 750,000 American jobs per year.

“Intellectual property protection is an economic stimulus,” Berman said. “To help boost our economy, it is imperative that we take measures to ensure American innovations are protected abroad and artistic communities can earn a return on their investment in new creative expression.”

Late this month the Office of the United States Trade Representative is scheduled release its “Special 301” report listing countries whose lack of intellectual property protection have the greatest adverse effects on United States industries – among them

“The United States and its trading partners rely heavily on investments in intellectual property to drive our economies,” Berman said. “Unfortunately, the incentives and profits for engaging in piracy are high, and the risks of being apprehended and sanctioned are low in many countries around the world. Piracy of copyrighted materials is not a victimless crime and its global repercussions must be addressed.”

Berman said he would soon introduce legislation that will begin to elevate the attention given to intellectual property concerns abroad.

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