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Dodd: Protect Intellectual Property Rights, Ingenuity

As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner convene with their Chinese counterparts for the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, there is a clear message they are sending — there is mutual interest in ensuring open and stable markets between our two countries.

If you review Geithner’s remarks during the opening ceremony in Beijing last week, fundamental to this shared interest is the protection of intellectual property.

These remarks come on the heels of the Special 301 Report — the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s annual review of the state of intellectual property rights protection throughout the world. The report, which found among other things that online sales of pirated discs is on track to surpass the volume of pirated items sold by street vendors, should convince lawmakers in Washington, D.C., that international intellectual property theft is getting even worse.

In China, the report found that an astounding 99 percent of all online music downloads during 2011 were illegal. And more than ever, Internet users in China are illegally streaming foreign movies and television shows as their preferred method for watching copyrighted content.

As legitimate options for watching content online continue to expand and develop around the world, online content theft is on the rise as well. This theft undermines creators’ ability to create the content people love. A vibrant online market, bringing content to audiences when and how they want to view it, cannot survive unless it is secure, unless it is free from theft.

As the report states, the United States will work with its trading partners to strengthen legal measures to crack down on online piracy and bolster enforcement of those measures when necessary.

If intellectual property rights best practices are devised and implemented with America’s trading partners, we can significantly cut down on online theft abroad and help sustain important industries. One example is Spain. Because of the country’s recent efforts to fight online copyright piracy and bolster enforcement, USTR has taken Spain off its watch list. Of course, the rights holders will continue to be vigilant as they test the effectiveness of the measures.

Lawmakers and policymakers must realize that American jobs are at stake. According to the report, copyright infringement “causes significant financial losses for rights holders and legitimate businesses around the world” and “undermines key U.S. comparative advantages in innovation and creativity, to the detriment of American businesses and workers.”

According to a recent report from the Department of Commerce, 40 million U.S. jobs are directly or indirectly affected by industries that depend on strong intellectual property rights — industries including pharmaceuticals, aerospace, manufacturing, information and technology, environmental technologies, biopharmaceuticals, chemicals, services and others. The film and television industry, which 2.2 million American jobs rely on, specifically is an iconic American industry, creating products that not only are beloved by people around the world but that also bring billions of dollars into the U.S. economy each year. It is one of the few American industries that consistently creates a positive trade balance.

Enforcing robust copyright protections helps ensure that this vibrant industry can remain strong, can continue to employ Americans all across the country and can continue to produce the TV shows and movies that people love. It protects American ingenuity and creativity.

Without it, the United States will be put at a significant disadvantage in creating domestic jobs, growing the economy, and expanding U.S. exports — goals that lawmakers and the public alike understand well.

Chris Dodd, a former Democratic Senator from Connecticut, is chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.

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