Monday saw the RIAA- and MPAA-backed PRO-IP bill signed into law by president Bush in a move which will create tougher penalties for pirates caught acting within US borders.
The bill – which was also backed by the US Chamber of Commerce – will toughen existing criminal laws against piracy and counterfeiting in the US in addition to the creation of an intellectual property czar whose responsibility it is to advise the presidency on how to defend copyrights both within the US and internationally, according to Reuters
. The costs that can be sought from a pirate have also been dramatically increased under the Act.
The CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Tom Donohue claims that the PRO-IP Act “sends the message to IP criminals everywhere that the US will go the extra mile to protect American innovation
,” and hopes that the new law will help to curb the estimated $250 billion losses incurred due to intellectual property infringement. How much of this money will be ploughed back in to the fight thanks to increased bureaucracy via the office of the IP czar – something the EFF
is concerned about – remains to be seen.
Although the law gives intellectual property owners – read the music and movie cartels – new legal recourse for chasing and punishing pirates, one particularly troublesome aspect of the Act has been removed: a measure which would have allowed intellectual property holders to request that the Justice Department file civil lawsuits against suspected pirates, something which the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Richard Esguerra feared would turn the organisation into little more than “pro bono personal lawyers for the content industry.
Even with the civil suit angle removed many are still unhappy with aspects of the case, with advocacy group Public Knowledge highlighting the fact that the law allows for the seizure of equipment used in a suspected piracy case. Spokesman Art Brodsky explains that in a house with a single computer “[where] one person uses it for [illegal] downloads and one for homework[, ] the whole computer goes.
Do you believe that tougher laws – and an IP czar – are what's needed to curb the current high levels of piracy, or are lobbyists exaggerating the scale of the problem for their own ends? Share your thoughts over in the forums