2024-05-24 06:46:23
Bill Asks Attorney General to Investigate Piracy legislation/politics

PC Magazine

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate on Thursday that would allow the U.S. Attorney General to bring civil actions against Americans that violate copyrights.

The bill, the “Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008”, was scheduled to be introduced on Thursday, according to Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who authored the bill along with Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). The bill’s co-sponsors include Senators Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

The bill is similar to the “Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Act” of the 2007 Congress, which set out to establish a so-called Intellectual Property Enforcement Network (IPEN) made up of the deputy secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security, Justice, the Treasury, Commerce, and State, plus the Deputy Attorney General and other senior government members.

However, the current bill would pair the IPEN with a designated Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, an advisor who would report directly to the President. Enforcement would be left to the FBI, who would be authorized to form an operational task force to fight copyright crime. An organized crime task force would also be created at the Department of Justice to link copyright violations to organized crime, such as DVD piracy. Five “intellectual property law enforcement coordinators” could be sent overseas to work with local law enforcement.

“The time has come to bolster the Federal effort to protect this most valuable and vulnerable property, to give law enforcement the resources and the tools it needs to combat piracy and counterfeiting, and to make sure that the many agencies that deal with intellectual property enforcement have the opportunity and the incentive to talk with each other, to coordinate their efforts, and to achieve the maximum effects for their efforts,” Sen. Leahy said in a statement. “The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008 does just that.”

The proposed bill would also tighten civil IP laws, requiring that an actual copyright be filed before a criminal case can be brought. However, according to the text of the bill, no actual copyright would need to be filed in the case of a civil suit brought by the Attorney General or another individual or company.

The bill would also explicitly allow documents and records to be seized in the course of a civil copyright-infringement suit. And a “harmless error” provision would allow prosecutors to gloss over minor errors in copyright filings that would otherwise provide defendants a loophole.

Reactions split across industry lines

Unsurprisingly, the bill was welcomed by software groups, including the Business Software Alliance. “”BSA and its members commend Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), John Cornyn (R-TX), George Voinovich (R-OH) and others for their leadership on intellectual property issues, as further illustrated today, with the introduction of the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008,” the BSA said in a statement. “This important legislation will go a long way to curbing software piracy which cost more than $48 billion around the globe. The bill will provide US law enforcement with new legal tools to combat software piracy and counterfeiting. It will also provide much needed resources to investigate and prosecute IP crimes and expand the successful program of placing IP attaches in key US embassies around the globe.”

“American innovators and creators are driving our nation’s economy. Whether they are born of research, technological innovation or the strum of a guitar, creative expression of ideas are the backbone of job creation, growth and surplus trade,” executive director Patrick Ross of the Copyright Alliance added.

“We urge Congress to act quickly so that copyright owners can see new enforcement measures on the President’s desk this Congress,” Ross said in a statement.

Public interest group Public Knowledge said it was concerned, however. “We are concerned that several provisions in this bill could have harmful, if unintended, consequences that would harm consumers,” Gigi Sohn, president and co-founder of the organization, said in a statement. “The bill rightly targets enforcement of copyright law against commercial infringers, but some of these same enforcement provisions are likely to hurt ordinary consumers.

“The provisions allowing seizure of equipment may be harmful to consumers,” Sohn added. “Seizing expensive manufacturing equipment used for large-scale infringement from a commercial pirate may be appropriate. Seizing a family’s general-purpose computer in a download case, as this bill would allow, is not appropriate. This bill goes even farther, expanding the penalties under the flawed Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to create new grounds for allowing a family’s computer to be seized if used to circumvent digital rights management, even if for fair uses.

“In addition, this bill would turn the Justice Department into an arm of the legal departments of the entertainment companies by authorizing DoJ to file civil lawsuits for infringement, forcing taxpayers to foot the bill,” Sohn concluded.

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