Las Vegas Sun

July 6, 2015

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Guest column:

Protecting copyrights, patents protects our jobs

As the Consumer Electronics Show runs this week in Las Vegas, inventive small businesses, pioneering startup enterprises and major tech companies are showcasing their most impressive new technologies and innovations. When they are successful, these innovations mean jobs for working people and middle-class families here in Nevada and across the country.

Those jobs are jeopardized, though, because these inventive ideas and products are under constant threat from offshore websites that are stealing and reproducing their patented and copyrighted products. That’s why the Nevada State AFL-CIO is supporting two bills before Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT-IP) in the Senate. These bills would protect the families working in thousands of jobs in Nevada that rely on intellectual property protection to keep their businesses running.

When foreign websites illegally sell counterfeited intellectual property, they are taking jobs, income and benefits from American workers. In fact, according to a study cited by the National Crime Prevention Council, counterfeit products and stolen intellectual property may cost up to 750,000 jobs each year and $250 billion in lost revenue across all sectors of the economy. The motion picture industry alone employs nearly 7,900 people in Nevada — not just actors, but stage employees, technicians, musicians, writers and many other middle-class workers. And the revenues generated from the film industry’s production in Nevada total more than $90 million each year and $1.2 billion since 2000. Online piracy put this all at risk.

While the entertainment industry is an important employer in Nevada and many members of our unions have jobs in the industry, threats to copyright infringement also extend far beyond film and music. Nevada businesses developing software and creative manufacturing technologies are also supporting SOPA and PROTECT-IP to protect their innovations from being stolen and distributed on the Internet. The engineering firm Bechtel Nevada, one of Southern Nevada’s largest nongaming employers with 3,000 employees, and Reno-based gaming developer International Game Technology, employing 2,500 in Reno and 600 in Las Vegas, both support these solutions to protect their intellectual property and the vitality of their businesses.

To protect Nevada workers and Nevada businesses, SOPA and PROTECT-IP would give the Justice Department new tools to police foreign-owned and operated websites that illegally share copyrighted material by requiring companies based here in the U.S. to take action to prevent access to them. And, contrary to baseless attacks you may have heard, these bills are narrowly focused to target only websites whose sole purpose is to provide or direct browsers to stolen content from the industries that are critical to our economy.

In fact, this is such a critically important economic issue that both bills have support from a wide variety of businesses and organizations here in Nevada. Gov. Brian Sandoval and Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto also support it because they understand the need to protect job creators in Nevada. The bottom line is that if we are to protect American workers and ensure that they continue to benefit from the jobs that American innovation creates, we must protect our intellectual property from foreign piracy.

We applaud Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s actions to make sure this bill is addressed this Congress. At a time when Nevada’s unemployment leads the nation, we can’t afford to send additional jobs out of Nevada.

Danny L. Thompson is executive secretary treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, representing 125 affiliates and 225,000 members.

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