November 10, 2005 12:29 PM PST

Justice Dept. pushes stiffer antipiracy laws

WASHINGTON--The Bush administration announced on Thursday that it is lobbying for new laws that would bump up criminal penalties for pirates, expand criminal prosecutors' powers and punish anyone who "attempts" to infringe a copyright.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, speaking at an antipiracy summit here hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the Department of Justice recently submitted to Congress a "legislative package" aimed at toughening up intellectual-property enforcement amid evolving technology.

Gonzales
Alberto Gonzales
U.S. attorney general

According to the proposal (click for PDF) being circulated by the department, the measure would create a new crime called "attempting to infringe a copyright" and subject it to the same penalties as more serious infringement offenses.

The proposal would also permit authorities to seize and destroy pirated and counterfeit goods--with a special nod to music, movies and digitally obtained materials. Also on that list are any goods used to produce pirated or counterfeit material, as well as property obtained with proceeds from the sale of pirated or counterfeit material.

In addition to possibly serving prison time, those convicted of infringements would, under the new law, have to pay the copyright holder "and any other victim of the offense" a sum to compensate for out-of-pocket losses resulting from the crime.

The Justice Department is also seeking in its proposal greater latitude for prosecutors. Right now it's only possible to enforce against copyrights that are registered with the government. The new proposal would make that true only in civil cases, allowing prosecutors to go after pirates regardless of whether the copyright is registered.

"The burden of checking whether each work was registered would substantially slow down investigations and hinder the government's ability to prosecute these violations, especially infringement of works owned by small businesses that have not had the time or resources to register," the department wrote in a document explaining its proposal.

Overall, the changes are necessary because new technology is "encouraging large-scale criminal enterprises to get involved in intellectual-property theft," Gonzales said, adding that proceeds from the illicit businesses are used, "quite frankly, to fund terrorism activities."

The Business Software Alliance--whose president lamented at Thursday's event the $33 billion annual toll from piracy on the software industry--applauded the move, saying the group looked forward to reviewing the proposed legislation. The Recording Industry Association of America also issued a statement of support.

That sentiment was not shared by the digital rights group Public Knowledge, which said in a statement that it wished the department "had devoted some analysis as well to protecting the fair use rights of consumers."

"We are concerned that the Justice Department's proposal attempts to enforce copyright law in ways it has never before been enforced," the group wrote.

It was unclear Thursday how Congress would handle the proposal. A representative of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary said staffers had received and were reviewing the proposal.

Intellectual-property enforcement has been a recurring feature on the government's agenda this term, from increasing prison sentences for Net pirates to legislative fall-out in the wake of the Supreme Court's landmark file-sharing decision this summer to ongoing debate over the broadcast flag, a controversial device designed to prevent copying of digital content.

The Justice Department's hunger for increased antipiracy powers is hardly new. Last fall, it issued a report recommending other sweeping changes strongly favored by the entertainment industry.

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

22 comments

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Hardly suprising
It's hardly suprising that the government is blatantly in favor of
stripping the rights of consumers in the name of "terrorism," after
all, it's the same lame excuse they've been using to strip
American's of all of their other rights. Not to mention, Washington
has it's johnson so far up Hollywood's crapper that they'll do
anything to please the entertainment mafia. You know, that's not
really fair to the mafia, to paint them the same shade as Hollywood.
Posted by toddfiedler (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Interesting feedback above.
I don't think so. I think the vast majority of youth and adults in our society are honest people. These new laws are only stripping "rights" from the small cross-section of dishonest people who don't think clicking a few mouse-buttons to get a piece of cheese is stealing..... metaphorically speaking of course.

#######
It's hardly suprising that the government is blatantly in favor of
stripping the rights of consumers in the name of "terrorism," after
all, it's the same lame excuse they've been using to strip
American's of all of their other rights. Not to mention, Washington
has it's johnson so far up Hollywood's crapper that they'll do
anything to please the entertainment mafia. You know, that's not
really fair to the mafia, to paint them the same shade as Hollywood.
Posted by endlesstide (5 comments )
Link Flag
What a bunch of BS
The DOJ hasn't established any link between piracy and terrorism. Terrorism is merely the latest trump card for getting legislation and agendas thru, like communism was in 50's during the Mccarthy era.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sometimes when you try to tax tea you lose your subjects!
Sometimes when you try to tax tea you lose your subjects!

These kinds of law don't stop people from doing what they think is right. It just reassures their understanding that some laws are abitrary and there is no reason to respect them.
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
tea taxes?
wow, a reference to the American Revolutionary war era.

Wouldn't America's founding fathers roll over in their graves with what goes on today?
Posted by techguy83 (295 comments )
Link Flag
Got to speed things up.
Can't just talk and no action. Hong Kong already sentenced 3
months jail time for the guy who uploaded movie using Bittorrent.
I wonder how long will US take to follow Hong Kong's lead.
Posted by audiophilecc (65 comments )
Reply Link Flag
downloading is not crimnal
Please there are real crimes and crimnals out there. Its only a crime if you sell it. Please goto to wall street or the oil companies those are the real crimnals
Posted by cpudrewfl (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You don't have to sell it...
At least in the US, distributing it is
sufficient to make it illegal. You are right,
however, that downloading or receipt of the copy
is not actionable -- only distribution.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Link Flag
Where's The Proof?
"Gonzales said ... that proceeds from the illicit businesses are used, 'quite frankly, to fund terrorism activities.'"

i'd sure like some tangible proof of this. oh, i guess the folks who are able to prove this are still too busy chasing wmd's in iraq, though, aren't they?

i personally discourage ip theft, but what a crock!


mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Probably got that...
From some hapless soul the DOJ was torturing --
probably just some confused farmer with menacing
looking anti-american earwax.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Link Flag
They will never stop it....
When will the U.S. learn that they are never going to have full control over the net like they want. There are alot of countries out there that people are in that conduct warez that the U.S. can not touch because thoose countries do not care about the pirates and do not follow our laws.
The point of the story.... The internet does not belong to any country or person... Its wide open... If you don't like the pirates then get out of the software business because they are here to stay as long as you continue to charge way too much money for softwar.
Posted by laroberts (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What is "attempted copyright infringement"?
Buying a CD? Recording a TV show with your VCR?
Quoting our buffoon of a president?
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Orwellian Nightmare?
I suspect this means that the FBI has proof that a group has duplicated a bunch of product and intends to sell it, though it just has not actually done so yet. That might be reasonable if you stumble on their warehouse of 10,000 copied version of some movie or software. Where it starts to sound crazy is if they expect to prove that someone intends to sell something just because they have a copy of it on a harddrive or ipod.
Posted by Wuzzard (10 comments )
Link Flag
Attempting
Unless a great deal of care is taken, just installing a P2P program that hasn't been approved by the RIAA could be considered "attempting."
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
Link Flag
So now...
They will be able to go after even though your commited no crime. Well, that should fill up the prisons. Another dumb a*s Bush administration idea. He really does need to get people that have at least two brain cells to rub together.

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Reply Link Flag
what about china
China can do all they want and they get a free pass while we build their country at our expense.
Posted by prow22 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Give me a break...
Overall, the changes are necessary because new technology is "encouraging large-scale criminal enterprises to get involved in intellectual-property theft," Gonzales said, adding that proceeds from the illicit businesses are used, "quite frankly, to fund terrorism activities."

Now they're trying to cash in on the terrorist phobia to justify their actions. I don't condone piracy, but to use this lame excuse is beyond belief.
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Rolling over in their graves
Yes, they would. The founding fathers would be grossly ashamed of today's society.

For example, the "separation of church and state" was an idea that was intended to PREVENT people from suing the government concerning religious matters - such as the posting of the Ten Commandments. To PREVENT people from being able to sue the school board simply because the teacher used the Bible in the classroom. To ENSURE that prayer in the classroom would always be allowed.

Another example is the growing authority that the federal goverment has in everyday life. Their goal was to place all authority at the city and state level. They would be horrified to see how that system has been perverted.

Yes, they're most certainly rolling in their graves.
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Downloading is not criminal
I totally agree. There are so MANY other "crimes" out there that deserve our attention. This downloading stuff is ridiculous. Quite frankly, I would say that all this attention to the downloading thing has caused record sales to slump much further than they would've if such a "stink" had not been caused over it. People are SICK of hearing all this. Concentrate on the terrorists and oil prices, etc etc.........
Posted by hyl715 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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