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US copyright czar resigns from White House for job at anti-piracy firm

Published time: August 28, 2013 23:42
Victoria Espinel (AFP Photo / Nicholas Kamm)

Victoria Espinel (AFP Photo / Nicholas Kamm)

Just weeks after resigning from a key position in the White House the United States’ lead copyright officer has joined an ant-piracy trade group that lobbies for influence in the government on behalf of technology corporations.

Victoria Espinel spent four years as the nation’s copyright czar, where she quietly played a role in negotiations between the music industry, film industry, and Internet service providers (ISPs) to disrupt a customer’s internet service if that individual was accused of downloading copyrighted material. Known as the “six-strikes” plan, the law drew harsh criticism from privacy advocates and small business owners. 

The Software Alliance, better known as the BSA, introduced Victoria Espinel as the organization’s new president in a press release Wednesday. The BSA’s website describes the lobby group as “the world’s premier anti-piracy organization.” 

We are thrilled to have Victoria leading BSA forward in an important phase of growth and evolution for the software industry,” Pascal DiFronzo, chairman of the BSA, announced. “Victoria brings an extraordinary wealth of expertise on key issues at the intersection of trade policy, market access and IP protection.” 

As the IP czar, a position created by Congress in 2008 and has remained vacant in the weeks since Espinel’s departure, the outgoing chief oversaw a three-year period that revoked the domains of websites accused of illegally streaming sporting events, sold bootleg clothing and accessories, and provided access to movies and music, among other activities.

Espinel has also taken criticism for her role in the secret negotiations to build the “six-strike” agreement. Her emails, disclosed in 2011 because of a Freedom of Information Act request, show that Espinel spoke with top Hollywood officials using her personal email address.

Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and other ISPs eventually agreed to cooperate with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Espinel was accused of cozying up to the major players in the deal while ignoring smaller companies. 

These kind of backroom voluntary deals are quite scary, particularly because they are not subject to judicial review,” privacy researcher Christopher Sohoian told Wired after the emails were first published. “I wanted to find out what role the White House has played in the negotiation, but unfortunately, the Office of Management and Budget withheld key documents that would shed further light on it.” 

The Software Alliance is made up of Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, and other major software players.


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