02/21/2013 05:13 pm ET Updated Feb 21, 2013

Cybertheft Threat Underscores Crucial Need to Protect American Intellectual Property

Front-page news this week that Chinese cyber hacking may have been sanctioned by the Chinese military has once again drawn significant attention to the critical need for the United States to step up the protection of its intellectual property. Today, the Washington Post reports that experts say that most powerful institutions in Washington, ranging from government to news organizations to human rights groups and more, have been victims of Chinese cybertheft. This problem of course isn't new -- the entertainment community, including the six U.S. movie studios I represent, has been fighting the wholesale theft of American intellectual property for many years -- but these news stories have triggered a renewed focus on the critical role intellectual property plays in the US economy.

Attacks like these on American intellectual property are a wide-reaching threat to our economy. We've learned over the past few days that Chinese hackers have orchestrated systematic attacks on at least 141 organizations over the past seven years, including Coca-Cola, Lockheed Martin, the Washington Post and the New York Times -- to name just a few of the major U.S. companies made vulnerable by these attacks. This is not a problem confined only to traditional content creators, it impacts every major sector of the US economy. In today's Post story, the president of CrowdStrike Services, a security company, says, "I've yet to come across a network that hasn't been breached. It's like having an invisible man in your room, going through your filing cabinets."

I was encouraged to read in the New York Times story that Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Obama administration officials feel that more needs to be done to prevent the cybertheft of American intellectual property.

A few years ago, administration officials say, the theft of intellectual property was an annoyance, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars of revenue. But clearly something has changed. The mounting evidence of state sponsorship, the increasing boldness of Unit 61398, and the growing threat to American infrastructure are leading officials to conclude that a far stronger response is necessary.

"Right now there is no incentive for the Chinese to stop doing this," said Mr. Rogers, the House intelligence chairman. 'If we don't create a high price, it's only going to keep accelerating."

I was also encouraged by the Obama administration's announcement yesterday of a strategy to combat the theft of U.S. trade secrets, and I hope that the administration will continue to devote significant energy to comprehensive strategies to protect American intellectual property from cybertheft, because these threats aren't just coming from China. This week, Bloomberg reported that recent cybertheft attacks on Apple, Facebook and Twitter were the result of a sophisticated attack by a criminal gang in Eastern Europe.

Make no mistake: these attacks are an effort to undermine America's competitive advantage and are a threat to all legitimate businesses. They target all sectors of the U.S. economy: defense, media, retail, tech, manufacturing, finance -- we have all been victims, and we all benefit from a heightened understanding of just how pervasive this problem is for American companies. We can prevent online theft and preserve an Internet that works for everyone, where companies large and small can grow and prosper. Moments like these are an important reminder that our collective ingenuity and hard work -- be it at the New York Times, Lockheed Martin, Twitter, or in creative communities like the entertainment industry -- are the foundation of a thriving American economy and culture.