Pirates of American films, products and copyrights beware. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, are launching a move to give U.S. officials more ammunition against you.
They introduced a bill Wednesday to force countries where piracy is a problem to take steps against it if they want U.S. aid; allow the president to stop buying products for the U.S. government in countries where piracy is a problem; and provide more funding to identify and fight piracy.
"We can't let other countries repeatedly rip off the movies Americans make, the products Americans design, and the other fruits of American ingenuity without taking some action," Baucus said.
Hatch, who is a senior member of the Finance Committee, added, "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."
Congress is expected to adjourn for the year as early as the end of this month, so little time remains for action on the bill this year. But it signals where Congress could move early next year to fight piracy.
The bill would require the U.S. Trade Representative to develop an "action plan" for each foreign country on its "Priority Watch List" of those with piracy problems. The plans would list legislative and enforcement actions those countries should take to achieve effective protection.
If a country has not complied with such plans within a year, the bill would authorize the president to take various enforcement actions against them. That includes banning the federal government from buying products in the offending country, and prohibiting new investment in the country by such entities as the Export-Import Bank or the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
The bill would give extra money to the trade representative's office to help developing countries to comply with their action plans. It would also provide increased staffing at foreign embassies to help protect and enforce U.S. intellectual protection rights.Baucus said, "The Baucus-Hatch bill really seeks to stop the stealing of U.S. intellectual property before it happens by pushing other countries to fight the problem wholesale. But if violations persist, our bill also provides ways for a president to crack down."