Intellectual Property Theft Target of Mississippi AG Task Force

December 11, 2009

Those behind the sophisticated computer software in Mississippi and elsewhere that tracks down child predators on the Internet are now targeting people who illegally download music and movies.

“The good guys are ahead when it comes to tracking down child pornography,” Attorney General Jim Hood said. “We’ve got to get ahead when it comes to counterfeiting and pirating. Ten years from now, I want to be able to look back and know I made a difference in policing the Internet.”

The attorney general’s office uses Operation Fairplay software to target child predators and observe any child pornography they’re downloading. Hood said new software is expected to be released this spring aimed at cracking down on the illegal downloads of music, movies, software and similar items.

Any Mississippian illegally downloading more than $100 worth of music or similar items can be prosecuted for a felony, he said. “Parents need to make sure their kids know this is a felony.”

This week, he announced that Mississippi is starting the nation’s first statewide task force aimed at clamping down on intellectual property theft. He is co-chairman of a committee on the issue for the National Association of Attorneys General.

“Counterfeiting and intellectual property theft is a big business with fat profits,” said Brad Buckles, executive vice president of antipiracy for the Recording Industry Association of America.

Overall, the trafficking of counterfeit goods and pirated materials cost the economy up to $250 billion and 750,000 jobs.

“From China to the streets of New York to Tupelo, piracy is killing the U.S. economy by a thousand cuts,” said Bob Barchiesi, president of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition. “Counterfeiting and piracy cost real jobs.”

The task force — known as “Operation Knock Off the Knock-Offs” — will serve as a national model for fighting piracy, he said.

Counterfeiting raids by authorities have uncovered not only cheap imitations but unhealthy products, such as “toothpaste tainted with antifreeze,” he said. “The steps Attorney General Hood is taking by developing this statewide task force will help ensure that consumers are kept safe from the variety of harms that
are posed by these cheap, substandard and illegal products.”

On Dec. 1, Tupelo police, working with agents from Hood’s office, raided a gift show at a hotel, seizing more than 700 items, including purses, wallets, sunglasses and other items. Although they bore names such as Gucci, they were actually counterfeit, attempting to pass for more than $100,000 in merchandise,
authorities said.

Tupelo police arrested Joan Lesley of Baldwyn and charged her with two felonies related to the raid. Authorities said they found records of her involvement in “come and go” parties held at other businesses and homes.

Hood said eBay has moved to crack down on counterfeit products being sold online.

He said task force officials are urging universities to block students from making illegal downloads. He said the task force is also talking with major Internet providers about preventing such illegal activity from taking place.

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