For all the talk of "fake news" going around these days, you'd think that the federal government would avoid creating more of its own on purpose. And you'd think that the MPAA and RIAA would know better than to join in on such a project. However, the following email was sent to some folks at Stanford Law School asking the law school to join in this fake news project promoting intellectual property via a fake Twitter feud:
Good Morning! My name is H------, and I am reaching out to you from the State Department’s Bureau of Economic Affairs. I gave you call a little earlier this morning, but I thought I would follow up with an email as well.
Currently, I am working on a social media project with the Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement. This summer, we want to activate an audience of young professionals- the kind of folks who are interested in foreign policy, but who aren’t aware that intellectual property protection touches every part of their lives. I think the law school students at your institution may be the type of community that we would like to engage. Additionally, we know that your law school is ranked among the top schools in Intellectual Property law, and thus our campaign may not only be fun, but relevant for you all as well.
So a little bit of a recap from the message that I left you this morning. The Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs wants to start a fake Twitter feud. For this feud, we would like to invite you and other similar academic institutions to participate and throw in your own ideas!
The week after the 4th of July, when everyone gets back from vacation but will still feel patriotic and summery, we want to tweet an audacious statement like, “Bet you couldn’t see the Independence Day fireworks without bifocals; first American diplomat Ben Franklin invented them #bestIPmoment @StateDept” Our public diplomacy office is still settling on a hashtag and a specific moment that will be unique to the State Department, but then we invite you to respond with your own #MostAmericanIP, or #BestIPMoment. Perhaps it will an alumni defending intellectual property in the courts or an article that your institution has produced regarding this topic.
Some characters from the IP community here in DC have agreed to participate with their own tweets: US Patent and Trademark Office, the Copyright Alliance, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Copyright Office, and the Recording Industry Association of America. We hope to diversify this crowd with academic institutions, sports affiliations, trade associations, and others!
Please give me a call or email me with any questions, comments, or concerns. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
Sincerely, H-------- Official UNCLASSIFIED
So, let's break this down. This is literally the State Department, working with the IP Enforcement Coordinator (normally called the "IP Czar") to team up with the MPAA, RIAA and Copyright Alliance (a front group for the RIAA and MPAA), along with the Patent & Trademark Office and the Copyright Office to create a fake Twitter feud over who likes copyright and patents more.
Everything about this is crazy. First, the State Dept. should not be creating fake news or fake Twitter feuds. Second, even if it were to do so, it seems to have picked one side of the debate, arguing that greater copyright and patent enforcement is obviously a good thing (how far we've come from the time when it was the State Department that fought back against SOPA and told the White House not to support it).
Separate from that, why are the MPAA, the RIAA and the Copyright Alliance agreeing to team up with the US government to create fake stories? That seems... really, really wrong. I get that they are obsessed with always pushing a misleading and one-sided message on copyright law, but creating out and out propaganda with the US government?
Also, even if the geniuses at IPEC -- an office that was set up in 2008 under another anti-piracy copyright law -- falsely believe it's their job to push Hollywood's message out to the world, how could they possibly have thought it was a bright idea to engage in outright propaganda using Twitter... and to try to enlist law school professors and students in these shenanigans?
I've put out a request for comment from the State Department's Bureau of Economic Affairs, and will update this post if I hear back.