sorry if this was already posted, and I missed it
May 15, 2007 2:00 AM PDT
Gonzales proposes new crime: 'Attempted' copyright infringement
Posted by Declan McCullagh
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is pressing the U.S. Congress to
enact a sweeping intellectual-property bill that would increase
criminal penalties for copyright infringement, including "attempts" to
"To meet the global challenges of IP crime, our criminal laws must be
kept updated," Gonzales said during a speech before the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce in Washington on Monday.
The Bush administration is throwing its support behind a proposal
called the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007, which is
likely to receive the enthusiastic support of the movie and music
industries, and would represent the most dramatic rewrite of copyright
law since a 2005 measure dealing with prerelease piracy.
Here's our podcast on the topic.
The IPPA would, for instance:
* Criminalize "attempting" to infringe copyright. Federal law
currently punishes not-for-profit copyright infringement with between
1 and 10 years in prison, but there has to be actual infringement that
takes place. The IPPA would eliminate that requirement. (The Justice
Department's summary of the legislation says: "It is a general tenet
of the criminal law that those who attempt to commit a crime but do
not complete it are as morally culpable as those who succeed in doing
* Create a new crime of life imprisonment for using pirated software.
Anyone using counterfeit products who "recklessly causes or attempts
to cause death" can be imprisoned for life. During a conference call,
Justice Department officials gave the example of a hospital using
pirated software instead of paying for it.
* Permit more wiretaps for piracy investigations. Wiretaps would be
authorized for investigations of Americans who are "attempting" to
* Allow computers to be seized more readily. Specifically, property
such as a PC "intended to be used in any manner" to commit a copyright
crime would be subject to forfeiture, including civil asset
forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture has become popular among police
agencies in drug cases as a way to gain additional revenue, and it is
problematic and controversial.
* Increase penalties for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright
Act's anticircumvention regulations. Criminal violations are currently
punished by jail times of up to 10 years and fines of up to $1
million. The IPPA would add forfeiture penalties.
* Add penalties for "intended" copyright crimes. Certain copyright
crimes currently require someone to commit the "distribution,
including by electronic means, during any 180-day period of at least
10 copies" valued at more than $2,500. The IPPA would insert a new
prohibition: actions that were "intended to consist of" distribution.
* Require Homeland Security to alert the Recording Industry
Association of America. That would happen when CDs with "unauthorized
fixations of the sounds, or sounds and images, of a live musical
performance" are attempted to be imported. Neither the Motion Picture
Association of America nor the Business Software Alliance (nor any
other copyright holder, such as photographers, playwrights or news
organizations, for that matter) would qualify for this kind of special
A representative of the Motion Picture Association of America told us:
"We appreciate the department's commitment to intellectual-property
protection and look forward to working with both the department and
Congress as the process moves ahead."
What's still unclear is the kind of reception this legislation might
encounter on Capitol Hill. Gonzales may not be terribly popular, but
Democrats do tend to be more closely aligned with Hollywood and the
recording industry than is the GOP. (A few years ago, Republicans even
savaged fellow conservatives for allying themselves too closely with
On behalf of Rep. Howard Berman, the California Democrat who heads the
House Judiciary subcommittee that focuses on intellectual property, a
representative said the congressman is reviewing proposals from the
attorney general and others. The aide said the Hollywood politician
plans to introduce his own intellectual-property enforcement bill
later this year but that his office is not prepared to discuss any
One key Republican was less guarded. "We are reviewing (the attorney
general's) proposal. Any plan to stop IP theft will benefit the
economy and the American worker," said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the
top Republican on the House Judiciary committee. "I applaud the
attorney general for recognizing the need to protect intellectual
Still, it's too early to tell what might happen. A similar copyright
bill that Smith, the RIAA and the Software and Information Industry
Association enthusiastically supported last April never went anywhere.
CNET News.com's Anne Broache contributed to this blog.
copyright, gonzales, dmca
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