The U.S. Department of Justice has just announced it will spend an additional $2.4 million in tax payer funds bolster efforts in the on-going "war against piracy", as Attorney General Eric Holder also revealed that the DoJ has been "educating" thousands of "foreign judges, prosecutors, investigators, and policymakers" on how to best deal with copyright issues.
Backed by the powerful music and movie industry lobby, the DoJ has been more active than ever in combating online piracy, with the seizure of popular file hosting website Megaupload earlier in the year being the most sensational development in the war so far. And Holder was keen to paint the Megaupload seizure as one of the ongoing successes. "For example, in January – in one of the largest criminal copyright cases in U.S. history – the Department indicted two corporations and seven individuals with operating an international organized criminal enterprise responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works, through Megaupload.com and other related sites," said Holder, even as the actual case itself gets bogged down in legal issues, with critics, and even some judges, finding serious problems with the government's case.
But it's the influences that the U.S. is directing towards foreign judges that may be most controversial. "Because IP crime is global in nature, I’ve prioritized increasing our international engagement. In fact, to date, Department officials have trained, educated, and met with thousands of foreign judges, prosecutors, investigators, and policymakers from more than 100 countries on IP protection," Holder proudly proclaimed.
Critics will argue whether this level of foreign interference is more propaganda rather than education, especially given the one-sided prep-talks that the current administration, and government entities in general, would have received from its industry based copyright allies. For example, in the recently struck deal between rights holders and major ISPs, the negotiations for which was co-sponsored by the White House, consumer interest groups were left out of the loop and unable to present their point of view on the copyright debate.
And the influence seems to be working, at least in some cases. Last year, leaked diplomatic cables revealed the role the U.S. had in convincing New Zealand to pass tougher copyright laws, for example.
And it's just as well the controversial SOPA/PIPA laws were not passed earlier this year either. Under these proposed laws, the DoJ would have had the responsibility to file copyright lawsuits in foreign jurisdictions. Which would have meant that they would be putting their arguments to the very judges that they have 'educated' - a convenient, but perhaps questionable ethically.