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Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on "Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus"

Thank you. I’m honored to be here with this distinguished group. I’d especially like to recognize Victoria Espinel for proposing this report and for her tireless and effective outreach on behalf of American intellectual property, workers, and industries.

I’d like to recognize Vice President Joe Biden, who’s been a true champion of U.S. intellectual property and all of America’s working people.  Finally I’d like to thank Paul Almeida, president of the Department for Professional Employees, for his leadership and for providing a crucial voice for hundreds of thousands of professional, technical, and creative people, as well as for all of America’s workers. 

This report shows the profound importance of intellectual property to American living standards and our future. Intellectual property protections – copyrights, patents, and trademarks – translate into jobs, incomes and benefits. 

The arts and media, for example, represent a vibrant part of the U.S. economy and yield one of its few remaining trade surpluses. 

In the United States, entertainment remains a heavily unionized industry. Creators, performers and craftspeople are union members – and not just the recognizable performers, but middle-class professions you never see: camera operators, costumers, editors, electricians, hairstylists, make-up artists and dozens more. 

Entertainment professionals depend not just on pay, but on a share of “downstream revenue” from the repeated use of a show, film, or recorded music after its initial release. Three-quarters of the revenues for a motion picture come after its initial theatrical release. More than half of scripted television revenues come after the first run. These downstream revenues yield the residuals and royalties that sustain entertainment professionals between projects and fund their pension and health care plans. 

But along with billions of dollars each year, digital theft has cost the U.S. entertainment industry countless jobs. 

A 2011 report from the U.S. International Trade Commission estimated conservatively that if China protected intellectual property as the U.S. does, there would be approximately 923,000 new U.S. jobs. And China is only one of many countries that host websites illegally trafficking in U.S. entertainment. 

U.S. protections for American intellectual property simply do not effectively address foreign rogue websites that steal movies, TV shows and music. The need to address foreign rogue websites remains urgent as they continue to profit at the expense of U.S. jobs and income.

While intellectual property is necessary to U.S. jobs, incomes and the economy as a whole, it is not enough by itself to grow good jobs. It is only one part of a larger picture that requires coordinated industrial and trade policies. At a time of high long-term joblessness, we must employ U.S. workers to use U.S. intellectual property in the United States. If we don’t, we will lose the stimulus to innovation that hands-on experience supplies. 

Our next speaker is Dr. Rebecca Blank.

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