FBI, Music Labels Renew Piracy Fight

The FBI is teaming with several entertainment and software industry organizations to launch a new antipiracy seal and warning text for vendors to display on piracy-prone products like CDs and software.

"We hope consumers take time to learn the do's and don'ts of copying and uploading music on the Internet. As the shield attests, these are serious crimes with serious consequences," said Brad Buckles, antipiracy director of the Recording Industry Association of America at a Los Angeles press conference Thursday afternoon. "We also hope that this attention-grabbing reminder will reinforce the fact that copyright infringement is theft."

Warning Consumers

Piracy is detrimental to the national economy, said government and industry officials at the event. FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director Jana Monroe quoted industry-provided figures pegging losses from intellectual-property piracy at billions annually, while other FBI officials spoke of piracy crimes perpetrated by organized and often violent groups profiting handsomely from their illegal operations.

An antipiracy seal seems aimed more at discouraging consumers than career criminals--the kinds of file-swappers the RIAA targets with its campaign of individual lawsuits. But FBI agent Chris Dowd, an intellectual property rights specialist in the agency's cybercrime division, said widespread use of the seal and warning text will help the FBI pursue the for-profit pirates it targets.

"It helps us with the prosecution and investigation. We need to articulate that these people did know the law," Dowd said. "By having this widely spread and advertised, this is a great way to say, 'How could you not know?'"

Online Caveats

What form the seals will take, and how soon they'll be turning up on retail products, is still being worked out by the various industry associations working with the FBI. RIAA's Buckles said his organization's members are currently developing plans for the seal. Ken Jacobsen, representing the Motion Picture Association of America, said the MPAA's seven members have not yet discussed how they will use the seal.

In addition to showing up on product labels or box covers, the seal can be applied electronically, according to its creators. Officials from the Software and Information Industry Association and Entertainment Software Association said they're considering splash screens that would display the seal when software is installed.

The FBI's Monroe did not have available figures on how much money has been budgeted for the new seal campaign, or for the FBI's larger crusade against digital piracy. However, she said the agency's resource commitment to protecting intellectual property is significant. Fighting cybercrime is now the FBI's number-three priority, ranking behind battling terrorism and conducting counterintelligence operations.

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