As recent news reports reveal, the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator for the United States, Victoria Espinel, has stepped down. Appointed by President Obama in September 2009, Espinel coordinated the various federal agencies’ approach to intellectual property (IP) enforcement, serving in this post until August 9, 2013.
FMC is deeply appreciative of Espinel’s service, as we understand how complex this space can be. Digital technology has transformed the marketplace for intellectual property — providing global reach to creators, innovators and entrepreneurs, but also creating real challenges to the enforcement of rights. For the music community, this chiefly means copyright protections, but Espinel’s job also included other aspects of intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks, trade secrets and industrial design.
Espinel demonstrated real leadership at a time when other policymakers, particularly Congress, were rapidly backing away from IP enforcement in the wake of some very public, and often heated, debates around anti-piracy legislation. Her sensible approach to enforcement — which invovled getting various stakeholders together to address unauthorized access, reproduction and distribution — preferenced voluntary and marketplace-focused approaches over potentially overbroad statute.
In the course of her service, Espinel helped broker two “best practices” agreements to help combat piracy and counterfeiting online. The first established a process for rightsholders to inform payment processing services (like credit card companies and PayPal) to prevent commercial transactions on infringing websites. The second voluntary agreement arrived just last month (Juy 2013), and is aimed at reducing aimed at reducing “ad-supported piracy” through through a similar set of guidelines for parties to follow.
In her regular reports to Congress, Espinel was also supportive of a public performance right for sound recordings, which would allow recording artists and sound copyright owners (usually labels, but increasingly artists) to be paid when their work is played on over-the-air radio. Most other developed nations have such a royalty; the United States, North Korea and Iran do not.
FMC was honored to have Espinel deliver a keynote address at our 2010 Future of Music Summit (you can watch the video here). Even early in her tenure, we were impressed at her balanced approach to IP issues, which stressed the need for protections, but also recognized the importance of accessible technology platforms, free speech and creative expression.
We also know that she’s a real music fan, so her interest in the issues that impact working musicians is geuine and deeply-felt. We believe very strongly that, when seeking to fill this vacancy, the administration would do well to nominate an individual with the characteristics embodied by Espinel — namely, a collaborative, solutions-based approach to shared challenges, and a willingness to listen closely to the experience of creators.
We wish her the best in her future endeavors.