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IP Commission Report: Surprisingly clueful

By Scott Bradner


If one were to believe the blogs, the recently released 84 page report of The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property ( ) is full of dumb ideas, proposed by people who have no idea about intellectual property.  But the report ( ) is actually quite well done, specifically identifying real problems, including the inaccurate estimates of losses from the theft of copyrighted works, and proposing specific solutions, some of which might actually work.


The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property (, is described on its web page: "Formed in 2012, The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property is an independent initiative representing the sectors of research, defense, academia, government, labor, and business. The Commission is dedicated to examining the causes and impact of IP theft on U.S. strategic and economic interests and recommending policy solutions to the Administration and Congress."  The Commission co-chairs are Gov. Jon Huntsman, former Governor of the State of Utah and U.S. Ambassador to China and Dennis Blair (Admiral, U.S. Navy, retired), former Director of National Intelligence and Commander of U.S. Pacific Command.  The other members of the Commission are Dr. Craig Barrett, former Chairman and CEO of Intel, Sen. Slade Gorton, former U.S. Senator of Washington State, William Lynn, CEO of DRS Technologies and a former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, Deborah Wince-Smith, President & CEO of the Council on Competitiveness and Michael Young, President of the University of Washington and former Deputy Under Secretary of State for Economic and Agricultural Affairs.  This is not a group that would seem likely to understand the details of Intellectual Property, so I expect the Commission staff did the heavy listing in putting together the report.


The Commission co-chairs also published a Washington Post op-ed summarizing the report. (


A number of Internet blogs went semi-nutz over what turns out to be a 2-paragraph recommendation on page 81 of the report.  There is no way around it, the recommendation is very dumb.  The recommendation is basically to have copyright holders use the same kind of ransomware that Internet extorters do: "For example, the file could be rendered inaccessible and the unauthorized userŐs computer could be locked down, with instructions on how to contact law enforcement to get the password needed to unlock the account."  This idea harkens back to an idea expressed by U.S. Senator Orrin Harch.  (  See my April Fool's Day RFC on the topic. ( 3751)


The rest of the report is nowhere as dumb as are these two paragraphs.  The report's real focus is on trade-secret theft and patent violations, which are then used to produce products that compete with the output of US companies.  If there is a weakness in the bulk of the report it is that not enough attention is paid to the theft of secrets from the US defense industry.  See the January report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat ( for more information on that issue. 

I particularly like the discussion in chapter 7 of the problems in the generally used methods of calculating loss from the illegal copying of software. 


The report is consistent with other recent reports in painting China as the main bad guy in the cyberworld but also takes time to discuss (in chapter 9) some recent developments in China that give hope for a somewhat improved picture in the future.


Overall I think this is a good report, and worth reading.


Disclaimer:  I assume some people at Harvard have read this report but I have not seen any opinions about it expressed by them or by the university so the above review is my own.