Dept. Of Justice, Others Slam Stronger IP Bill
December 17, 2007 at 7:06 AM (PT)
A House bill that would create an 'Intellectual Property Czar" and strengthen intellectual property laws was castigated by the Dept. of Justice, which deemed it unnecessary and counterproductive to the work already underway, reports PC Magazine.
"We have a current structure that works quite effectively," Deputy Asst. AG SIGAL MANDELKER told the House Judiciary subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.
H.R. 4279, introduced last week ostensibly to crack down on intellectual property violations, would create several new government positions with the power to enforce the new law. It would also create an "IP Czar" of sorts, as well as several other new government positions, as well a permanent intellectual property division within the Department of Justice.
These statutory damages would provide for $1.5 million damages for a single CD. I think that's unreasonable
MANDELKER called those plans "ill-advised," adding that the new department, "will disrupt important relationships within the criminal division and will make intradepartmental IP coordination more difficult."
The DOJ already has an IP task force that recently implemented 31 recommendations, but "there was never any recommendation to create an entirely new division for IP," MANDELKER said, adding that it's also against putting an IP office inside the White House. "We are always going to be concerned when you have somebody at the White House who may be in the position of directing our enforcement or what cases we do or don't do," she said. "That would be contrary to the long-standing tradition of the department making independent decisions regarding law enforcement."
Ratcheting Up Per-Song Damages
Some in Congress are particularly disturbed by one particular article in the bill, Section 104, which dramatically increases the punishment for digital piracy. Under current law, for example, someone who pirates a single album will be charged with one crime. Section 104, however, would penalize criminals on a per-song basis, so if someone pirated a motion picture soundtrack that had songs from 12 different artists, the pirate would be charged with 12 separate offenses and be subject to exorbitant fees.
Saying she was "deeply troubled" by Section 104, ZOE LOFGREN, (D-CA) declared, "These statutory damages would provide for $1.5 million damages for a single CD. I think that's unreasonable."
Chairman JOHN CONYERS, who sponsored the bill, responded by asserting that "Damages need to reflect the fact that we live in a world where music is being consumed in bite-sized pieces, not just in albums or whole books," he said.
Answering complaints that the bill would allow seizure of a family's general-purpose computer in a download case. CONYERS said that bill authors "carefully crafted the language to allow seizure only if the property was owned or predominantly controlled by the infringer. [such as] A warehouse used to store counterfeit goods ... or property used to transfer" pirated goods.