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Gonzales proposes new crime: 'Attempted' copyright infringement


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Gonzales proposes new crime: 'Attempted' copyright infringement

Posted by Declan McCullagh


Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is pressing the U.S. Congress to enact a sweeping intellectual-property bill that would increase criminal penalties for copyright infringement, including "attempts" to commit piracy.

"To meet the global challenges of IP crime, our criminal laws must be kept updated," Gonzales said during a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington on Monday.

The Bush administration is throwing its support behind a proposal called the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007, which is likely to receive the enthusiastic support of the movie and music industries, and would represent the most dramatic rewrite of copyright law since a 2005 measure dealing with prerelease piracy.

Here's our podcast on the topic.

The IPPA would, for instance:

* Criminalize "attempting" to infringe copyright. Federal law currently punishes not-for-profit copyright infringement with between 1 and 10 years in prison, but there has to be actual infringement that takes place. The IPPA would eliminate that requirement. (The Justice Department's summary of the legislation says: "It is a general tenet of the criminal law that those who attempt to commit a crime but do not complete it are as morally culpable as those who succeed in doing so.")

* Create a new crime of life imprisonment for using pirated software. Anyone using counterfeit products who "recklessly causes or attempts to cause death" can be imprisoned for life. During a conference call, Justice Department officials gave the example of a hospital using pirated software instead of paying for it.

* Permit more wiretaps for piracy investigations. Wiretaps would be authorized for investigations of Americans who are "attempting" to infringe copyrights.

* Allow computers to be seized more readily. Specifically, property such as a PC "intended to be used in any manner" to commit a copyright crime would be subject to forfeiture, including civil asset forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture has become popular among police agencies in drug cases as a way to gain additional revenue, and it is problematic and controversial.

* Increase penalties for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anticircumvention regulations. Criminal violations are currently punished by jail times of up to 10 years and fines of up to $1 million. The IPPA would add forfeiture penalties.

* Add penalties for "intended" copyright crimes. Certain copyright crimes currently require someone to commit the "distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period of at least 10 copies" valued at more than $2,500. The IPPA would insert a new prohibition: actions that were "intended to consist of" distribution.

* Require Homeland Security to alert the Recording Industry Association of America. That would happen when CDs with "unauthorized fixations of the sounds, or sounds and images, of a live musical performance" are attempted to be imported. Neither the Motion Picture Association of America nor the Business Software Alliance (nor any other copyright holder, such as photographers, playwrights or news organizations, for that matter) would qualify for this kind of special treatment.

A representative of the Motion Picture Association of America told us: "We appreciate the department's commitment to intellectual-property protection and look forward to working with both the department and Congress as the process moves ahead."

What's still unclear is the kind of reception this legislation might encounter on Capitol Hill. Gonzales may not be terribly popular, but Democrats do tend to be more closely aligned with Hollywood and the recording industry than is the GOP. (A few years ago, Republicans even savaged fellow conservatives for allying themselves too closely with copyright holders.)

On behalf of Rep. Howard Berman, the California Democrat who heads the House Judiciary subcommittee that focuses on intellectual property, a representative said the congressman is reviewing proposals from the attorney general and others. The aide said the Hollywood politician plans to introduce his own intellectual-property enforcement bill later this year but that his office is not prepared to discuss any details yet.

One key Republican was less guarded. "We are reviewing (the attorney general's) proposal. Any plan to stop IP theft will benefit the economy and the American worker," said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary committee. "I applaud the attorney general for recognizing the need to protect intellectual property."

Still, it's too early to tell what might happen. A similar copyright bill that Smith, the RIAA and the Software and Information Industry Association announced with fanfare last April never went anywhere.

"Require Homeland Security to alert the Recording Industry Association of America." -  So software piracy is now to be policed by anti-terrorism units who don't answer to anyone but the president? Looks like your linux based DVD player is now a WMD.

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* Create a new crime of life imprisonment for using pirated software. Anyone using counterfeit products who "recklessly causes or attempts to cause death" can be imprisoned for life. During a conference call, Justice Department officials gave the example of a hospital using pirated software instead of paying for it.

I assume those first two sentences are supposed to be related, and it's only life imprisonment for using pirated software if it does the thing described in the second. I don't think the US is so crazy it'll try to give everyone who uses pirated software a life sentence.

Why dont we just implement an attempted p0rn viewing law. So every one will get fined or what ever becuase somehow those popups get past the popup blocker.

Ok, that is really just such an irrelevant and worthless comment.

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The whole purpose is this law is to give the RIAA/MPAA grounds to sue when some one go caught downloading a fake torrent? Would this law also make it illegal to visit thepiratebay.org even if your intentions are purely for research?

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The whole purpose is this law is to give the RIAA/MPAA grounds to sue when some one go caught downloading a fake torrent? Would this law also make it illegal to visit thepiratebay.org even if your intentions are purely for research?

That raises an interesting question about movie studios etc putting up fake torrents, is the "evil pirate" who downloads a fake a torrent still attempting to infringe copyright if it's impossible that any actual infringement could take place? Personally I think the fake torrent/P2P thing is akin to the Police trying to stop stabbings by handing out rubber knives on street corners, anyone with half a clue realises it's fake the moment the see it anyway.

To me these proposed changes seem ridiculously scary, I'm glad I live in moderately liberal country where there's enough paranoid hippies to keep everything in line. Piracy isn't a serious offence, why don't you let homeland security round up sex offenders or something instead? You as well declare piracy = terrorism and send the cruise missiles off to hit duplication factories in south east Asia, at least then it would stop the people taking the most out of the RIAA/MPAA/etc's profits. I can't see these changes doing anything but hurting your average Joe who decided he couldn't afford to buy the DVD of the latest trash out of Hollywood and pirated it instead then gets dragged off to jail for half his life.

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The US copyright con is out of control

Comment Call for life sentences highlights systemic daftness

By: Nick Farrell Wednesday 16 May 2007, 14:56

THIS MORNING THE American government is seriously talked about locking people up for life for making illegal copies of Windows. We should not be too surprised, for the last two or three years this idea of stealing people's ideas, music or videos has been a major obsession, particularly with American law makers.

To an observer, the US legal system lookss pretty much a pile of lunacy, where vengeful reactionary laws are bypassed by the rich. The Paris Hiltons of this world get their sentences cut and the poor end up being sentenced for years for the same offence. But it will finally reach the point of absurdity when you can be locked up for life because someone copies a bit of software or a song.

The RIAA can bleat, "hey it is theft". But even that argument wears thin when you start locking up people for life for it. We seem to have returned to the 18th century, when the UK transported people for stealing a sack of potatoes or hung you for stealing a horse.

Allowing rich and powerful pressure groups that much control of the legal system is dragging it backwards and lowering the standards of the universe.

By raising the profile of copyright theft beyond what it really is, you reduce the creditability of your case and the value of the justice system generally. You get life for murder, or serious rape cases or crimes against humanity. Now, if the new law goes ahead, you will get ten years for downloading half a song from eDonkey which you could not even play. It will be a good idea for a network manager who is caught with a dodgy copy of Windows to attempt a getaway with a sawn-off shotgun.

US society is finally losing control of its legal system if you can lose your liberty for angering a company. If the law goes ahead, Microsoft can lock up Linus Torvalds for nicking its software. He, and his Linux friends, might make a case that Windows contains parts of his code, but evidence seems to indicate that the American courts back those with the most money.

So far, US attempts to export its war on privacy have been met with half-hearted support from the rest of the world. This is not because we are sloppy or soft on piracy. I have sat through shed-loads of court cases where pirates have gone to jail or faced fines. But it is because the European approach fits into a basically rational legal system which is harder to hijack by business interests. Therefore it is more in proportion to reality.

It should be pointed out that these business interests are not necessarily acting in the best interests of the US foreign policy either. While many countries are making inroads into China, Russia and India, American diplomats are hamstrung by the fact that they have to harp on about copyright theft. Indeed in China, the fact that it has a vibrant piracy market is more likely to attract the attention of the diplomats than human rights abuses. By this standard it seems that America is more likely to go to war over piracy than it is to prevent genocide.

What the RIAA, and now apparently the US government, does not understand is that by blowing this out of proportion they target the people they need to support them. There are real pirates who make huge amounts of cash peddling copied CDs and then there are kids who share a song they like. There is a difference. Society knows with its own moral compass that a mafia-run organisation to mass produce DVDs is not the same as a kid sharing a movie with a mate.

In reality the only difference between the two is that the kids are easier to catch. While the RIAA stuffs up the careers of university students the mafia operations are being ignored and are laughing all the way to the bank. The next generation of lawyers and police are being barred from prosecuting the next generation of criminals.

History says that you can only persecute the middle ground for so long before the people get miffed. Jailing IT managers for life because they have a copy of Windows that Microsoft's Genuine Advantage police are certain is pirated is going to alienate a lot of people. When the middle ground moves, it is fairly likely they will not move in favour of the RIAA and its paid for political chums. When this happens there will be more calls for the copyright holders to be put in their box and to get a sense of perspective.


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The tactics used by mega corps in the recent years only makes me think that they already know that they are going to lose to the exponentially expanding public domain property. There is so much free entertainment available that there is little reason to even go to the theater, thanks to Hak5, Channel Frederator, red vs. blue, and many others. I personally have banned mega corp entertainment just short of any good video game(EA is still on my favorite list).

The fact that Microsoft is turning to fear tactics is painting a big picture and writing a movie about it. I'm just waiting for someone to buy the movie rights so that Microsoft can make even more money. At this point there are very few things keeping them on top of the OS market, and I'm sure many people here would stop using Windows if EA would start making games that ran on Linux. I can't say much more about Microsoft on this topic without creating a really bad self fulfilling prophecy(my foresight should not be abused). Microsoft has annoyed me in the past but up to this point I haven't been annoyed enough to stop using their products.

In light of actions made by the RIAA, and the MPAA, I propose a full or partial ban against any recorded material produced by said organizations until said organizations stop attacking dissenters who's presence can not be proven detrimental to the community.

[edit]And why should Homeland Security ever report anything to the RIAA?

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I'm sure many people here would stop using Windows if EA would start making games that ran on Linux.

Hahaha! Don't kid yourself. Linux still has some ways to go.And keep in mind that I'm saying that dispite being one of those few who hasn't used windows in ages. I'm also rather curious what Microsoft has to do with RIAA wanting Homeland Security to be on the lookout for copyright infringement attempts...

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