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IP-PRO copyright bill passes House

Copyright czar, coming up

By Grant Gross
May 8, 2008 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - A copyright bill that has been criticized for radically increasing fines on copyright infringements — the usefulness of which has been called into question by the Department of Justice officials currently responsible for enforcement — has passed the House of Representatives. The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act, or PRO-IP Act, would allow law enforcement authorities to seek the forfeiture of property used in copyright infringement.

The PRO-IP Act also creates a new Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement representative, often called a copyright czar, in the White House and expands a U.S. Department of Justice program that gives local law enforcement agencies grants to fight computer crimes, including grants for copyright infringement enforcement.

The extra help isn't necessarily welcome. "The Department of Justice has said more than once that they don't need this [copyright czar] office to exist, that they don't need the help," noted Corynne McSherry, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "If the cops are telling Congress 'no thank you,' I think we should respect that. It's confusing that Congress isn't taking heed before spending these tax dollars that other agencies need."

The bill (download PDF), which provides for both civil and criminal forfeitures of property used to commit copyright infringement, was sponsored by Democratic Reps. John Conyers of Michigan and Howard Berman of California, as well as Republican Lamar Smith of Texas. It passed the House on a 410-11 vote on Thursday.

In March, the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property killed the most controversial section of the bill, which would have increased fines for compilation CDs containing pirated music by 10 times or more. Provisions in that section would have assessed fines for each separate copyright work on a compilation such as a CD, meaning the fines for a 10-song compilation CD would range from $7,500 to $1.5 million, instead of the current $750 to $150,000.

The Recording Industry Association of America praised the House for passing the bill. "Intellectual property industries" create millions of jobs and bring billions of dollars into the economy, RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol said in a statement. The bill is a "strong, common-sense measure" that will provide the tools needed to protect intellectual property, the statement added.

Angela Gunn of Computerworld contributed to this report.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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