We need more than just a new law

Recent bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate aiming to protect the intellectual property of U.S. corporations is a noble thought. But will it work?

For years, law enforcement agencies have struggled to find and arrest modern-day thieves across physical borders. And while they've had some success with arrests that have resulted in fines and/or jail time for a few spammers, hackers and others, there are legions more – many forming organized and savvy criminal groups – who still launch successful online attacks with impunity.

Called the International Intellectual Property Protection and Enforcement Act of 2008, the legislation is sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Max Baucus, D-Mont. Overall, it's touted as adding more punch to the enforcement capabilities held by those organizations that work with countries whose populace is engaged in intellectual property theft.

Specifically, it provides for more additional funds to support the Office of the United States Trade Representatives (USTR) so that it can work with developing countries to help them improve intellectual property protection and enforcement efforts. It also is supposed to give the president various enforcement tools to deal with those countries that refuse to enforce restrictions on the theft of U.S. intellectual property. "With the rising tide of piracy and counterfeiting abroad, it is vital that we provide those working on the front lines with the tools they need to ensure that our nation's intellectual property rights are lawfully respected by foreign countries," Senator Hatch said in a statement.

But, while the bill's intentions are certainly admirable – many even say the legislation is landmark-making – one wonders about its true worth. Is it just political bluster and stuff?

While, yes, it is proposing to put real money toward the problem, it will take more than cash to solve the issue of piracy and other forms of intellectual property theft abroad.

Indeed, while such legislation could be enforced in the States, dealing with other countries is an entirely different beast. To slay it will take more than a U.S.-based law, but extensive and real partnering between our own law enforcement groups with other countries' agencies. And that's been a challenging problem that is bound to get tougher. And this is one beast that, given the profits won by today's internet criminals, will likely grow bigger.

Illena Armstrong is editor-in-chief of SC Magazine

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