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Copyright Bill Passes Senate
September 26, 2008
Thomas Mennecke
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The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Act of 2008 passed the US Senate today, but many are breathing a sigh of relief anyway. A controversial provision which grants the Department of Justice the power to file civil copyright lawsuits didn't make the final cut. The provision was removed amid intense protest from the usual suspects and a surprise entity.

As a recap, the controversial provision grants the Attorney General the power to "...commence a civil action in the appropriate United States district court against any person who engages in conduct constituting [copyright infringement]..."

Not too many people liked that provision, especially the public advocacy group Public Knowledge, who saw the provision as an unnecessary tax payer expense. Don't agree with Public Knowledge? Fair enough. How about the Department of Justice's opinion on the matter...

In a letter from the Attorney General's office to bill proponents Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Arlen Specter, the DoJ wasn't at all impressed with the change, as the department argued such a shift in responsibility would undermine their criminal enforcement efforts. Additionally, the DoJ threw the civil responsibility back at the copyright holders:

"[C]ivil copyright enforcement has always been the responsibility and prerogative of private copyright holders, and U.S. law already provides them with effective legal tools to protect their rights..."

The protests succeeded in having the provision removed, which was enough for all sides to claim victory. RIAA Chairman & CEO Mitch Bainwol offered praise for the bill's passage:

"This bill truly is music to the ears of all those who care about strengthening American creativity and jobs. At a critical economic juncture, this bipartisan legislation provides enhanced protection for an important asset that helps lead our global competitiveness."

Despite the loss of the provision, the pro-copyright camp can look forward to a host of other enhancements to the US copyright law. The bill will restructure the current government copyright enforcement model by creating a "Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator" office within the White House, which would report all matters of copyright enforcement directly to the President. According to Sen. Leahy's website, the Coordinators responsibilities include chairing "...an inter-agency committee that will produce a Joint Strategic Plan to combat piracy and counterfeiting and which will identify duplicative or inefficient efforts."

In addition, the bill will increase funding to federal and local law enforcement agencies in the pursuit of copyright criminals, expands the FBI to support the new White House office, and "procure advanced tools for investigating computer hacking or intellectual property crimes."

The bill still has a trip to the House of Representatives and the President's desk before it becomes law. Read more on the details of the bill at Sen. Leahy's website.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Legal/Courtroom :: Court Rulings/Decisions

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