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IP Bill allows govt. to confiscate property of copyright offenders

IP Bill allows govt. to confiscate property of copyright offenders

Ars Technica
July 25, 2008

Intellectual property legislation introduced in the Senate on Thursday would combine elements of two controversial IP enforcement bills: The PRO-IP Act, which passed the House by a wide margin in May, and the PIRATE Act, which has won Senate approval several times since its first introduction in 2004. The law would increase penalties for counterfeiting, empower federal prosecutors to bring civil suits against copyright infringers, create a federal copyright czar to coordinate IP enforcement, and provide for the seizure of property used to violate copyrights and trademarks.

Like PRO-IP, the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008 would double statutory damages for counterfeiting, with damages as high as $2 million for “willful” trademark violations. It also empowers the president to appoint an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (or “copyright czar”), who would develop a “joint strategic plan” meant to harmonize the IP enforcement efforts of diverse federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, Patent Office, State Department, and Department of Homeland Security. The Attorney General is directed to deploy five further IPECs as liaisons to foreign countries where piracy is rampant, and to establish a dedicated IP task force within the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The law also appropriates $25 million annually for grants to state and local government agencies working to crack down on IP violations.

Some of the strongest criticism of PRO-IP has been directed at a provision, replicated here, that would allow for the seizure of “property used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part to commit or facilitate” a copyright or trademark infringement. While this language is presumably meant to target the equipment used by commercial bootlegging operations, it would also appear to cover, for example, the computer used to BitTorrent a movie or album.

Read Full Article Here

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