October 12, 2004 4:42 PM PDT

Justice Dept. wants new antipiracy powers

The U.S. Justice Department recommended a sweeping transformation of the nation's intellectual-property laws, saying peer-to-peer piracy is a "widespread" problem that can be addressed only through more spending, more FBI agents and more power for prosecutors.

In an extensive report released Tuesday, senior department officials endorsed a pair of controversial copyright bills strongly favored by the entertainment industry that would criminalize "passive sharing" on file-swapping networks and permit lawsuits against companies that sell products that "induce" copyright infringement.

"The department is prepared to build the strongest, most aggressive legal assault against intellectual-property crime in our nation's history," Attorney General John Ashcroft, who created the task force in March, said at a press conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon.

In an example of the Justice Department's hunger for new copyright-related police powers, the report asks Congress to introduce legislation that would permit wiretaps to be used in investigating serious intellectual-property offenses and that would create a new crime of the "importation" of pirated products. It also suggests stationing FBI agents and prosecutors in Hong Kong and Budapest, Hungary, to aid local officials and "develop training programs on intellectual-property enforcement."

The Recording Industry Association of America applauded the report, saying that "for those who work in the community of record labels, songwriters and artists, the commitment of focus, energy and resources outlined in this report is music to our ears." The Motion Picture Association of America joined the applause, thanking the Justice Department for "defending our country's economy against pernicious IP pirates."

Phil Corwin, a lobbyist for Sharman Networks, distributor of the popular Kazaa file-sharing software, said the Justice Department seems "to be endorsing a war on copyright infringement modeled in large part on the war on drugs. That should invite very close scrutiny of the recommendations."

"They could be proposing here the greatest mass criminalization of conduct by otherwise law-abiding citizens since Prohibition," Corwin said. "Congress should think long and hard before they treat noncommercial infringement by ordinary citizens...the same as prosecutions of organized crime."

Tuesday's report was not focused exclusively on Internet piracy: It also included recommendations about responses to trademark infringements, trade secret violations and fake pharmaceuticals. But the Internet-related bills it endorses are at the heart of the ongoing political battle pitting Hollywood and the music industry against the computer industry, "fair use" advocates and librarians.

By backing the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act--which criminalizes common uses of file-swapping products--and the Induce Act, the report lends the authority and prestige of the nation's largest law enforcement agency to the pitched battles taking place in Congress this year. While the Induce Act enjoys support from the MPAA and RIAA, it has been savaged by technology firms including CNET Networks (publisher of News.com), BellSouth, EarthLink, Google, MCI, RadioShack, Panasonic, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems, Verizon Communications and Yahoo.

The report also opposes legislative efforts to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which broadly restricts hardware or software that can "circumvent" copy protection mechanisms. The 1998 law should stay intact, the Justice Department says, arguing that the law should prevent "deliberate and unauthorized circumvention."

Among the report's authors: Valerie Caproni, the FBI's general counsel; Kevin Ryan, the U.S. Attorney for Northern California; and no fewer than five assistant attorneys general at the Justice Department.

In an unusual twist, one section of the report that was being considered in August seems to have vanished in the final draft.

Hewitt Pate, assistant attorney general for antitrust and a task force member, indicated at a conference in Aspen, Colo., that the report would oppose a bill to let the Justice Department sue pirates in civil court. But no discussion of the so-called Pirate Act--approved by the Senate in June--appears in the final report.

11 comments

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Take care of ones own properties
If one has an issue with people in their yard, they put up a fence.

True no anti-piracy protection will ever be hackable; however it is the responsability of the property owner, to protect said property.

If what people do with their computers and the cd's they buy, is not what you intended, then rethink the media you use to distribute your property.

The government is not responsable for the protection my or your property, corp. or indivdual.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
err
err non-hackable
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
Holy hell...
They want to devote and divert resources from the war on terror??? Puh-lease. Asscroft is a buffoon and power-mad. For chrissakes, he lost an election to a dead man. The media barons needs to lead with technology, not fight it. Oh, and get a clue along with a new business model. I haven't purchased an overpriced CD in years. And everyone I know feels the same way. And, no, I don't download. Radio works fine. Holy crap, we're a frickin' pig of a nation...greedy...power-mad...arrogant...and we have a representative government of millionaires for millionaires.
Posted by ordaj (338 comments )
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Hope They
Fire ashcroft, when wins..
Posted by simcity1976 (136 comments )
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um
when kerry wins, ;P
Posted by simcity1976 (136 comments )
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Another reason...
Here is yet another reason George W. Bush has to go. When he goes so does his legal lacky John Ashcroft. We already have a brain dead Elmer Fudd in office I don't see how Kerry could be any worse.

Robert
Posted by (336 comments )
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Time to outlaw FTP
That's what is next if this legislation becomes law. Might as well outlaw the internet, then. The entire nature of the internet as much peer-to-peer as it is client-server.
Posted by leebert (3 comments )
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They are spending tax dollars on this???
Malware infections and identity theft are skyrocketing, costing society billions of dollars inrepairs and lost time every year, yet they divert funding to protect big corporate business?

I guess this confirms that a thousand dollar loss to corporate America is more important than a million dollar loss to the voters...
Posted by (2 comments )
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Guns are legal but peer-2-peer illegal!!??
Assault weapons whose only purpose is to kill people are legal (after all guns don't kill people, people kill people, right) but peer-2-peer file sharing software that have a lot more legitimate use than assault weapons, and will never be used to kill anyone are to be illegal. The only consistency here is in the sweet scent of the lobbying dollars of the respective industries...
Posted by (9 comments )
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We need the guns..
..to deal with the government when they finish taking our freedom away. First drugs, then terrorism and now P2P networking. Any excuse is good enough for the thugs in Washington to curtail our liberties.
Posted by Michael Grogan (308 comments )
Link Flag
They don't deserve this...
since the last I heard they have NEVER prosecuted anyone using the 1997 Digital Copying Act. Large scale pirating for commercial gain should certainly be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but lowering the bar to this level is utterly ludicrous. There are more important problems that need to be addressed (global warming and our aging electrical grid jump to mind, not to mention foiling terrorist plots).
Posted by C.Schroeder (126 comments )
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