Attorney General Eric Holder unveiled a new education campaign Tuesday to raise public awareness about the damaging consequences of intellectual property theft.
The campaign -- which targets everything from illegal movie and music downloads to counterfeit pharmaceuticals -- will consist of TV public service announcements as well as print and radio ads.
Flanked by other federal law enforcement authorities at the White House, Holder pointed to the urgent need to combat the illegal online trade, estimated to cost the U.S. economy upwards of $200 billion a year.
“Now, as our country continues to recover from once-in-a-generation economic challenges, the need to safeguard intellectual property rights and to protect Americans from IP crimes has never been more urgent,” Holder said. “Through this new public education campaign, we are encouraging the American people to become vigilant partners in identifying and disrupting intellectual property crimes.”
Ann Harkins, president and CEO of the National Crime Prevention Council, said the campaign was crucial because surveys show the “lure of the bargain overcomes the moral compass almost every time.”
Harkins presented the PSAs, including one called “Premonition,” which was created in partnership with MTV Networks.
It portrays how simply purchasing a bootleg video on a street could potentially help finance criminal networks and also drive law-abiding entertainment industry workers to the unemployment line.
Holder’s announcements came a day after federal authorities celebrated "Cyber Monday" by seizing 150 websites they say were illegally engaged in selling and distributing a range of goods, from DVD sets to sports jerseys.
The action was part of “Operation In Our Sites,” a collaboration between the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, among others.
According to ICE, the 150 domains were seized after federal agents successfully made undercover purchases through them. In most cases, authorities say, the illicit goods were shipped directly into the U.S. from other countries.
The entertainment industry applauded Monday’s action.
“These sites, which traffic in stolen or counterfeit goods, threaten the livelihoods of millions of American workers and businesses, including the 2.2 million whose jobs depend on the movie and television industry,” said Sen. Chris Dodd, Motion Picture Association of America Chairman and CEO in a statement.
“Operation In Our Sites,” described by ICE as “a sustained law enforcement initiative to protect consumers by targeting counterfeit and piracy on the internet" has led to the seizure of 350 domain names since the operation’s genesis in June 2010.