March 31, 2004 4:55 PM PST

House panel approves copyright bill

A House of Representatives panel has approved a sweeping new copyright bill that would boost penalties for peer-to-peer piracy and increase federal police powers against Internet copyright infringement.

The House Judiciary intellectual property subcommittee voted for the "Piracy Deterrence and Education Act" (PDEA) late Wednesday, overruling objections from a minority of members that it would unreasonably expand the FBI's powers to demand private information from Internet service providers.

The PDEA--the result of intense lobbying from large copyright holders over the past six months--has emerged as a kind of grab-bag that combines other proposals introduced in the past but not approved. One section that first surfaced last year punishes an Internet user who makes available $1,000 in copyrighted materials with prison terms of up to three years and fines of up to $250,000. If the PDEA became law, prosecutors would not have to prove that $1,000 in copyrighted materials were downloaded--they would need only to show that those files had been publicly accessible in a shared folder.

One part of the PDEA that did not appear in earlier bills would require the FBI to "facilitate the sharing" of information among Internet providers, copyright holders and police.

"I am sure (that its sponsor) does not mean to expand the powers of the FBI," Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said during the subcommittee hearing. "The concern I have is that this is very ambiguous. The language itself could lead an aggressive FBI to a different conclusion." Lofgren's attempt to amend the PDEA failed by a 4-14 vote.

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., a PDEA supporter whose district abuts Hollywood, said that Lofgren's conclusions were unfounded. "They have been as passive as you can be," Berman said, referring to the FBI. "They have authority they don't exercise."

Although Congress has pressured the department to use the No Electronic Theft Act to jail file swappers, no such prosecutions have taken place so far. Earlier Wednesday, however, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the creation of a task force on copyright violations.

The PDEA is an improved version of last year's legislation and will assist "federal law enforcement authorities in their efforts to investigate and prosecute intellectual property crimes," Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., the subcommittee's chairman, said in his opening remarks. Smith said that the reworked version "clarifies and narrows the application of criminal copyright law to the worst P2P offenders."

Other sections of the PDEA would require Ashcroft to boost the number of antipiracy cops on the Justice Department's payroll, and order the U.S. Sentencing Commission to revisit prison term guidelines to make sure they reflect "the loss attributable to people broadly distributing copyrighted works over the Internet without authorization." The PDEA also combines parts of another of last year's proposals that bans unauthorized recording in movie theaters and includes harsh penalties if pre-release movies are swapped on peer-to-peer networks.

Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group that agitates for fair use rights, said in a statement after Wednesday's vote that: "We hope the full Judiciary Committee will take a harder look at the change in the standard needed for prosecution of copyright infringement under this bill. The new standard created by the subcommittee could criminalize what is now lawful use of copyrighted materials."

At the same hearing, the House subcommittee also approved a bill that would increase criminal penalties for selling counterfeit labels that could go on CD-ROMs or software packages, and another bill to increase felony penalties for using false contact information when registering a domain name.

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Rape, Murder and Copyright Infringement.
My wife works in social services. The number one problem facing criminal enforcement against violent criminals is the shortening or "time served" sentences in prisons. This is due to a lack of space in most prisons. So to protect IP rights, we're going to let more Child molesters and rapists out early. Something is just too screwy here. I'm all for protecting IP, but have we learned nothing about criminalizing behavior?
Additionally, most offenders are going to be juveniles, who are exempt from adult prosecution unless there is a "heinous" nature to their crimes. I'm sure Mr. Valenti thinks it's all heinous, but I doubt many judges will agree.

It's just another example of government officials pretending to govern. Instead of working to fix the rudimentary problems of society, they are placating the EIC (Entertainment Industrial Complex). All in the hope of getting re-elected next term. Money may not be the root of all evil, but it sure motivates politicians into action...
Posted by ricbrink (4 comments )
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The protection of copyright
I'm from Australia and curious. Just what constitutes $1,000 worth of copyrighted material? There is an implicit copyright in what I have written right here. If I place a value of $1,000 on it and you read it does that mean I have a right to charge you? Do I now have to place a notification as an adjunct to everything I write not only noting value but the circumstances in which I favourably approve copying?

$1,000 worth of music - that's nothing, I could easily scan some of my more valuable books and make them available - I won't, but "fair go" why call it copyright protection when it's addressed purely at audio reproductions of some hard working artists efforts.

Additionally, is America now turning in to a "Guilty until proven Innocent" country with guilt is apparently proved purely by association (the "shared" folders)?

It appears, to me, that the legislature in America is busy being busy. (I suppose that's true of most Governments) I believe there are way more important things to worry about and lest we forget. What next guys?
Posted by Hellbent_free (3 comments )
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Meet the new boss same as the old
I guess the RIAA finally managed to get their pocket politicians to make the US government spend the money and time to prosecute the enemies of the RIAA machine. Since its bad business to sue your own customers lets just get the government to do it for us then we can blame them and no one will be hostile towards us.

Typical corporate political manipulation to thwart innovation and save their obsolete business model.

You know there was music before the recording industry before CDs or MP3s.. musicians made good money and were payed to perform.. whats wrong with that?

Even if all recordings were free there would still be a multimillion dollar business to be had in concerts and live appearances. Is that not enough? Greed is a very bad thing.. especially when people seem to think that you should only have to work once to become a millionaire (an hour in a recording studio and you never have to work again).

This just serves to further reinforce my opinion that I would rather pay $20 to the musician playing on a streetcorner than spend it buying some uncreative pop-star's lame cd. Trust me you should try it. Youll get much more of your moneys worth.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
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This is a start, and there was no way to make a bill that everyone would love. If anyone is looking for resources to help them prepare for the EPA reporting rules or the cap and trade system, CSA (World Secretariat for the development of ISO 14064, an international carbon accounting standard) has developed a suite with the goal of 'carbon performance made simple' that includes an independent ghg registry, training, advisory services to help measure and manage the footprint, standards and personnel certification for carbon consultants, ghg quantifiers and ghg verifiers. Try http://www.csa.ca/carbonperformance
Posted by Ekaterina_Tsvetkova (1 comment )
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