Victoria Espinel, the Obama administration's "IP Czar," who was A2IM's keynote speaker at this year's Indie Week event with A2IM President Rich Bengloff (Photo: Andy Gensler)
At last week's A2IM Indie Week, Victoria Espinel, the Obama administration's United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator for the Office of Management and Budget (a.k.a. "the IP Czar") gave the independent music association conference's keynote speech. Espinel, who has the unenviable job of coordinating the federal government's copyright protection policy, has received her share of support and criticism in trying regulate the hornets nest that is piracy on the web. In her address (full-transcript below), Espinel explained how her five-year-old's penchant for music informs her perspective, the two year anniversary of operation In Our Sites, her office's five-pronged approach to protecting copyright and her office's upcoming policy initiatives.
Thank you for inviting me to be here, I'm really excited that I had the chance. Everyone looks so much more comfortable than I feel in my black Washington, D.C. suit.
So, I have these very formal remarks that were prepared for me, but I think given the group and given the heat, I'll just put those to the side for the moment and talk about my office, which as it's been pointed out is a brand new office inside the White House, where it's just about to be our two-year anniversary. I'll tell you a little about what we've been up to and what we want to get up to in the future and how we want to work with groups like this.
I'll say first and foremost, I think I have a very keen appreciation of the enormous amount of work that goes into producing what you produce and creating what you create and the importance to our economy but also to the cultural fabric of our country as a whole to support what you are doing, and that's something my office and the administration as a whole takes very, very seriously.
President Obama knows very well that what you do and others like you do is one of the places where the United States leads the world, and we need to maintain our edge in global competitiveness today, tomorrow and into the future. Vice President Biden, for those of you who aren't aware, has been a longtime supporter. When he was a Senator, this was an issue that he cared deeply about. So, he came to the Vice Presidency-I think unprecedented for a Vice President-with a deep understanding of the issues you face and a great deal of concern.
My office and my job in a nutshell is to bring together all the different agencies of the federal government and the different offices of the White House and make sure we move forward in a coordinated fashion to protect American innovation, to protect American creativity and to implement the President's priorities. That's sort of a grand mission statement for the office. I'll talk a little more specifically about what that means in terms of day-to-day actions.
I'll also say before I get started with the sort of what we do in Washington part of the speech-I have two children, one of them is four months old, so it's a little early yet to know what he's going to turn into, but one of them turned 5 a couple of weeks ago, and he is obsessed with music. This is clearly going to be a very important part of his life in some way. He pretty much spends all of his time either on the piano or on YouTube learning how to play various instruments.
I think to have someone directly in your household that is engaging in music in that way has brought home to me how much music fills the background of our lives day-to-day, how ubiquitous music is, how much it has the power to change our emotions, to really sort of infuse every aspect of our life. You obviously know this; you live this every day, but it's been… professionally, I find what I do very important, but to see this on a personal level has been really engaging and fascinating. And, to be perfectly candid, sort of looking down--he's 5 years old we'll see where this takes him--but it gives me a more personal, vested interest in how people make money out of music to have a child who seems pretty focused on music in terms of his day-to-day life.
Let me talk a little about what my office does and how we can be helpful. So, my office oversees all kind of intellectual property. There's lots and lots of different kind of issues that we work on, including how to help out high-tech companies that are seeing their trade secrets get transferred overseas to China and other foreign competitors, there are lots of problems that we're having in trying to protect patents in various ways.
But clearly, the issues that you're facing are some of the most challenging we have today; the Internet has transformed distribution, it has transformed how consumers engage in music in lots of ways that are positive, but it has also created some enormous challenges. That is one thing we are very aware of and have been engaged in right from the beginning.
Let me talk a little bit what specifically I mean by that, because I think that this is a fascinating area to be involved in for someone who cares about intellectual property issues. The United States now, given by what we've been doing the past couple of years, are clearly at the forefront as far as enforcement online, but in doing that, we run into a lot of other interesting issues involving privacy, due process, fair use, free speech and policies that this administration takes extremely seriously. I think we are dedicated to the proposition that is possible to have a vigorous online enforcement program that is fully consistent with those policies. So, we need to be dedicated to this effort but not intemperate. We need to be both thoughtful but very forceful. We have mapped out strategy for how we can best accomplish that and we've been implementing it.
But, one of the reasons that I love come and talk to groups and companies that are actually facing these issues every day, so we can learn better about if what we're doing is having an impact or if there are other positions we should be taking.
I would say first and foremost, we know we need to be attacking this on several fronts simultaneously. There's no one answer that can solve this problem. There are four or five ways we have been moving to fight against this problem. I'll describe those briefly, but I just want to emphasize that point. There are people and there are governments, frankly, that think we could do this one thing and they could increase law enforcement or if they could make consumers understand the environment better or if they can create more legitimate platforms, that that would solve the problem. But that is clearly false. The volume and the scope and the complications of this problem is one of those things that it is evident that it needs to be addressed in multiple ways, vigorously and simultaneously.