Balancing Net Neutrality, Piracy Protection Is Job One

Intellectual Property Enforcement Candidate Shares Views Duing Nomination Hearing

Victoria Espinel, nominated to be the White House's intellectual property enforcement coordinator, said Wednesday that one of the first issues she will grapple with is balancing a free and open internet while protecting against online piracy.

In response to a question about her views on network neutrality and piracy from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) during her Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing, Espinel said she knew there was a tension between those two aims, but thought there didn't have to be.

She said she believed there was a way to insure an open Internet, leave room for reasonable network management and still make sure the Internet was not being used for the distribution for "all types of illegal content," including pirated content.

"I think if I was confirmed, one of the first issues I would be grappling with in coordination with the other agencies is how we go forward with devising new strategies that accomplishes both of those goals."

In response to concerns expressed by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), she said that she would take into account the impact of overzealous IP inforcement to openness and innovation.

Feingold said he wanted to know what steps she would take to insure that enforcment does not undermine public access which is crucial to innovation. She said that IP protection was a long-term strategy within which there would be a range of issues that would need balancing. She promised to work in an open and transparent fashion that took into account a variety of views and opinions.

Espinel was sharing the panel with four judges whose nominations were also being vetted. Franken asked if any had any Constitutional issues with network neutrality.

One, judge, Christina Reiss, nominated as a U.S. District Judge for the District of Vermont, did have some input.

While saying it was Espinel's area of expertise, Reiss said she had been thinking about what the network neutrality restrictions would look like and whether they would be content-based. "[That would be concering to me from a constitutional perspective." She said she would want to make sure that the focus "was on the process as opposed to impeding the free flow of information by focusing on content-based restrictions."

Franken said he wasn't sure anyone was talking about that, saying the issue was conflicts between managing networks and that free flow of information.

The committee did not vote on the nominations. The record will be kept open for a week so members can submit written questions. A vote generally won't be taken until there has been time for the nominees to respond to the questions, if any are submitted.