Piracy not only affects the health and safety of Americans, it also threatens the country's national security, according to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
"Every new technology we create can be abused -- whether it's a common identity thief looking for a new way to steal your bank account information, or an international terrorist looking to advance a murderous plot," he said.
Mukasey said that counterfeiters make parts that support the nation's infrastructure. During a speech at the Tech Museum of Innovation in Silicon Valley this past weekend, he indicated that federal authorities will strengthen efforts to battle piracy.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office already has announced agreements to work with foreign governments on patent protection. The Department of Justice also cooperates with foreign law enforcement groups to crack down on hackers and intellectual property thieves. It boasts about 230 federal prosecutors devoted to hacking and intellectual property theft.
He noted that piracy often crosses multiple jurisdictions and said that can help, rather than hinder, enforcement.
"There's more than one way to skin a cat, and our international contacts give us more options to do what needs to be done," he said.
Mukasey said that intellectual property theft threatens the economy and has become a profit-generating scheme for organized crime.
"While it may be stating the obvious, it's worth noting that patented inventions, copyrighted software code, and trademarks are precious commodities," he said. "And as intellectual property becomes ever more valuable, its theft poses an ever greater threat. Criminal syndicates, and in some cases even terrorist groups, view IP crime as a lucrative business, and see it as a low-risk way to fund other activities."
Counterfeit pharmaceuticals, medical devices, electronics, auto parts, and airplane parts "can present a real and direct danger to the public," Mukasey said. He explained how a "knock-off chainsaw" could threaten "life and limb."
He cited several recent prosecutions and arrests in piracy cases and said the number of piracy cases filed increased by 33% from 2005 to 2007, when the department filed 217 cases. Those cases include arrests and prosecutions of rings inside the United States and those that stretch across foreign borders.
Mukasey said the Department of Justice wants Congress to pass a bill that would criminalize attempted copyright infringement, and allow courts to authorize wiretaps in counterfeiting and piracy investigations