White House seeks input on IP policy

June 27, 2012: 1:51 PM ET

Victoria Espinel, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, is encouraging citizens to weigh in on IP law and policy.

FORTUNE -- Opponents of proposed laws like the Stop Online Piracy Act have an opportunity to help stave off the potential of another, similarly disastrous piece of legislation from being crafted. Victoria Espinel, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, is "starting the process of gathering input for the Administration's new strategy for intellectual property enforcement." To that end, she's encouraging citizens to weigh in online.

Of course, such initiatives should always be taken with a chunk of salt. This could be interpreted as little more than a public-relations exercise. Furthermore, large political forces (fueled by money) have much more to do with how law and policy get shaped than does "public input" to a relatively minor advisory office in the executive branch. But as GigaOM's Derrick Harris notes, if the administration "decides to go crazy prosecuting relatively minor infringements or supporting draconian bills, it can't say it hasn't heard the opposing viewpoints."

MORE: SOPA's chief sponsor harder to defeat than SOPA was

It should also be noted that, partly based on advice from Espinel's office, the administration earlier this year publicly distanced itself from SOPA not long before that legislation, in the face of massive opposition, was shelved. Espinel is hardly powerless.

It "matters that we have the right approach—one that is forceful yet thoughtful, dedicated and effective, and that makes good and efficient use of our resources," Espinel writes. Another goal is to ensure that IP laws and policies are "understood by policymakers." A lack of basic understanding among some lawmakers about how the Internet works was one reason SOPA got as far as it did.

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