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Remarks by Ambassador David H. Thorne at the IPR Workshop in Florence

Consul General Sarah Morrison, Ambassador Thorne and il Prefetto Varratta

Consul General Sarah Morrison, Ambassador Thorne and il Prefetto Varratta

Florence, September 27, 2012

Buon giorno e benvenuti.  
I would like to thank our Consul General Sarah Morrison for hosting us at the U.S. Consulate in Florence.

I would also like to thank you all for traveling to Florence – some from Rome, and others from across the Atlantic – including Stan McCoy, the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Intellectual Property and Innovation – to participate in this Workshop.  

And I’d like to give special thanks to the anti-piracy associations of Associazione Editori Sviluppatori Videogioche Italiani (AESVI), Associazione Italiana Editori (AIE), Federazione Anti-Pirateria Audiovisiva (FAPAV) and Federazione AntiPirateria Musicale (FPM) for their co-sponsorship of the conference.

I am pleased to see such a high-level of key officials, magistrates, stakeholders, and academics at this workshop who are committed to protecting intellectual property rights.

Our goal today and tomorrow is to share best practices, build relationships, deepen cooperation between Italy and the United States, and to dive into topics central to our shared interests.

We look forward to hearing the ideas and proposals that will emerge from your discussions. 

As most of you know, promoting the digital economy in Italy has been one of my priorities over the last three years, including hosting the Digital Economy Forums in Venice.  

But I am not here to convince you of the digital economy’s importance to Italy, or to the United States.  

You already know that.

Just as you know that intellectual property – and importantly, its safeguarding – is crucial for economic growth, job creation, and global competitiveness.  

Outside this room, however, few people understand the role that intellectual property plays, especially digital copyrights, in ensuring our economic well-being.

Intellectual property is the foundation on which knowledge-based societies must build their futures.  

Economic and cultural progress can only move forward fully when individuals and companies know that their innovation, ingenuity, and creativity is protected from theft or unauthorized duplication with cheaper inputs and labor.  

In this country, the “Made in Italy” brand – which represents the highest quality of food, fashion, and design – is jealously guarded as matter of national pride and because it creates tens of thousands of jobs.  

The same level of protection needs to be given to the creators and innovators in the digital economy.  

Both the United States and Italy – and more broadly, Europe – must continue to consider how to promote, share, and utilize ideas and creative materials while respecting the rights of developers and creators.

A 2010 French study warned that without such measures, Europe’s creative industries risk losing as much as €240 billion and 1.2 million jobs by 2015.

The United States strongly support policies and practices that preserve our digital intellectual property interests.  

Several of the most recent and innovative U.S. initiatives are voluntary agreements to reduce online intellectual property infringement by working cooperatively with private sector entities, such as credit card companies, domain name registrars and online advertisers.  

There are currently three such arrangements, one aimed at fake Internet “pharmacies”; one involving all major U.S. credit cards and payment processors against counterfeit and pirate goods; and one where Internet Service Providers (ISPs) educate consumers about copyright infringement and illegal downloading to stem these activities.  

We know that the theft of intellectual property threatens national competitiveness and the innovation that drives it.  

Italy, along with a few other countries including Belarus, Brazil, Egypt and Greece, remains a country of concern to the U.S.  

It was once again on the Watch List of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2012 “Special 301 Report,” because piracy over the Internet continues to be a serious concern in Italy.  

The U.S. remains concerned that the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) has not made sufficient progress with its draft regulations to combat internet piracy.  

The U.S. also remains troubled by lengthy delays in court cases adjudicating IPR disputes, often resulting in these cases not reaching final sentencing.

A further indication of U.S. concern occurred last week, when the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus released its “watch list” and included both Italy and Switzerland for the first time, noting that insufficient protections for copyright are a longstanding problem in both nations.  

The digital economy in most countries is only going to continue to grow.  Many prosperous companies today are found in the digital realm.  

In the G20 countries, for example, the Internet economy is expected to grow at more than 10 percent annually for the next five years and by 2016 reach $4.2 trillion, or 5.3 percent of the G20 countries’ GDP.  

In the United States, the digital economy accounts for an estimated seven percent of GDP.  

In the past 20 years, it has accounted for 37 percent of annual economic growth in the U.S.

According to a recent Economist study, innovative digital practices and applications are being conceived and implemented faster in the emerging world than in the developed world, and many European countries, including Italy, are at risk of being left behind as the digital divide continues to narrow.  

To put it bluntly, there are no alternatives but to become more digital with whatever assets are available.  

Mobile data tools and services are one area where the emerging world equals or outpaces the developed world in usage habits; the use of ICT in education services is another.

To ensure that this continued digital growth generates profit and develops sustainably, we will all need to improve our legal structures to protect intellectual property rights while recognizing that ever-expanding Internet access poses complex questions, in addition to unprecedented opportunities.  

One continuing challenge, for example, will be finding a balanced, fair approach to digital intellectual property protection while ensuring Internet freedom.

I hope that your discussions will move both the digital and intellectual property agendas forward and I look forward to hearing the many ideas and best practices that will emerge from this event.

Thank you and have a great two days in Florence.