As the nations new intellectual property enforcement coordinator advances her historic mission of crafting the federal governments first intellectual property strategy, a more complete picture is emerging of the kinds of people a well-crafted plan could help.
The comprehensive plan, expected this summer, is required by bipartisan legislation signed into law by former President George W. Bush and now being implemented by the Obama administration. The goal of the plan is to improve the response of numerous federal agencies charged with protecting the creative products of millions of Americans.
Critics would have you believe that protecting Americas creativity and intellectual property are dated ideas that only coddle deep-pocketed media empires. This is, of course, ridiculous, but inside the Beltway it all too often passes for informed policy perspective. But lets set that aside and look at who truly benefits from strong intellectual property protection.
A deeper look at the hardworking people who really drive Americas creative economy 11 million strong reveals they are more likely your next-door neighbor than Rupert Murdoch. A review of comments and research compilations filed with the intellectual property enforcement coordinators office paints a picture the anti-copyright intelligentsia doesnt want you to see.
Photographers, novelists, graphic artists, songwriters and music publishers are among the creators actively engaged in this debate. The American creative community the strongest and most vibrant on the globe includes hardworking men and women in every state. Even the Motion Picture Association of America, which doesnt hide the fact that it represents major studios often targeted by anti-copyright crusaders, highlighted in a recent report that the U.S. film industry financially supports sole proprietorships and small entrepreneurs in all 50 states.
The average annual income earned by American workers in the creative industries is a little more than $66,000 a solid living, above the national average, but not exactly a level where a lost sale or devaluation of work is insignificant. In other words, every sale, license or royalty check matters.
Hundreds of individual creators from all walks of life took advantage of the welcome invitation for comments in the IPEC proceeding to weigh in on the critical importance of copyright in their lives. Their stories are available to all on the White House website.
These testimonies address with personal detail the increasing burden of researching and tracking down online infringers; the false choice of copyright and creative freedom; the devaluing of creative works when they are stolen; and the potential real-life consequences of being able to pay bills, buy health insurance and save for childrens college that artists face just like any other American.
For those seeking to undermine copyright, these are inconvenient voices. Its easier to paint a target on big media though its unclear why any business deserves to have its products stolen but Phyllis Dobbs, a graphic designer in Alabama, is hardly the man.
Consider her story: Ms. Dobbs writes to the IPEC about how she creates designs and licenses them for use on ceramic goods, garden instruments and textiles. She has been working in art and design for more than two decades, receives royalties from licensing her designs, and makes a decent living. Yet when someone steals her images, she can no longer guarantee a company licensing the work that it wont be used somewhere else on a competing product.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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