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US government considers crackdown on online piracy

Supporters including Joe Biden push to target international counterfeiting websites

A new scheme, billed as America's first official intellectual property enforcement strategy, has called for the Obama administration to dedicate 50 FBI agents to tackling online copyright infringement, including software piracy.

Supporters of the strategy include vice president Joe Biden and attorney general Eric Holder. The group, headed up by intellectual property enforcement coordinator Victoria Espinel, also aims to convince the US government to target international websites producing and distributing copied goods.

China is considered a main offender, with 79 per cent of seized counterfeited goods originating there, according to a 2009 US customs report.

While much of the scheme concerns physical counterfeiting, music, film and videogame piracy will be investigated too.

"The theft of videogame intellectual property thwarts creativity, kills jobs, and reduces economic activity throughout our country," said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association. "The videogame industry is a source of tremendous innovation, creativity, artistic expression, and economic growth. Consumers win when intellectual property rights are respected and enforced.

"We deeply appreciate the efforts of vice president Biden and intellectual property enforcement coordinator Espinel and their leadership and vision in this critical area. We are grateful for Ms. Espinel's hard work to date, and appreciate the extent to which she has consulted with a wide range of stakeholders, including our industry.

"We look forward to reviewing this plan, and to doing our part to help the U.S. government succeed in its vital mission of protecting intellectual property."

The ESA has previously claimed that almost 10 million games were downloaded illegally during December 2009.

While it is unlikely that every one of those would equate to a lost sale (a 2008 survey by developer Reflexive suggested that for every 1000 pirated copies stopped by DRM, only one sale was gained), that figure did only refer to the top 200 most-pirated games at the time, and did not encompass downloads from online storage sites such as Rapidshare.

The ESA recommended that 35 countries, including Canada, Brazil and Mexico, were placed on a 'priority watch list' as a result.

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Alec Meer: A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.
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