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Mmmm … tastes like shitty legislation

copyright.jpgLadies and gentlemen, I give you the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008. This piece of shit was introduced into the Senate last week, and it combines pieces of two prior IP bills, the PRO-IP Act and the PIRATE Act. In a nutshell:

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.

This bill is full of bad things. The “copyright czar” is some person who will coordinate various federal agencies to bring private copyright infringement actions and, as a commentor on Slashdot put it, will basically do the RIAA’s job for them. ArsTechnica explains some of the other bad things about this legislation:

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.
The new bill also incorporates the idea at the core of the PIRATE Act, by permitting federal prosecutors to bring civil suits against copyright infringers. (While these suits would not preclude action by the copyright owner, any restitution to the owner under a government suit would be subtracted from the damages that could be obtained by private action.) Since 1997, prosecutors have had the authority to bring criminal copyright charges against large-scale infringers. But that power remains little-used, in part because of the high evidentiary burden prosecutors must meet in criminal cases; civil suits employ a less stringent “preponderance of the evidence” standard.