Should "Attempted Copyright Infringement" Be A Criminal Offense?

According to CNet, the Bush administration is throwing its support behind something called the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007, which would, among other things criminalize something called “attempted copyright infringement.” From CNET:

“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.

Our good friends Howard Berman and Lamar Smith, (you’ll remember them as the ones who took lots and lots of money from the RIAA as well as the friends and families of various record company and entertainment executives) are all for it, according to CNET:

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, who’s the top Republican on the House Judiciary committee. “I applaud the attorney general for recognizing the need to protect intellectual property.”

Berman’s office said they couldn’t comment because they were busy drafting their own version of the legislation.

So, what would the new legislation do? Some highlights from CNet:

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 is problematic and controversial.

Increase penalties for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention regulations. Currently 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 too.

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

You can read the proposed legislation here, in PDF form, and check out the press release while you’re at it. —MEGHANN MARCO

Gonzales proposes new crime: “Attempted” copyright infringement [CNet via Slashdot]
Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007 (PDF)


RELATED: Congressmen Who Took Money From The RIAA Send Chiding Letters To Universities


Edit Your Comment

  1. KelbornCmd says:

    The article does mention that similar efforts have failed in the past. This law does sound rather horrifying – sort of like making it illegal to think about committing a crime (not to mention a further erosion of our civil liberties). I guess it’s time to give my representatives a call…

  2. Mills says:

    So they needed all the money from college students so that they could bribe Congress into making even considering downloading music even more criminal?

  3. Xabora says:

    On the bright site Alberto is not liked well by congress.

  4. Falconfire says:

    @Mills: Yep pretty much, and if the courts rightfully opposed it, then the government would go ahead and say the courts have too much power.

    Sometimes I think we would just be better off nuking DC and starting anew. Oh wait, maybe I shouldnt say that now that the FBI is reading and filing my name away for future “reconditioning”

  5. Sandtiger says:

    This is what happens when companies write their own laws and pay “our” representatives to push it through.

  6. billybastion says:

    this is completely off topic but…

    that girl who is the model for all of the snorg tees advertisements on here is simply mesmerizing.

    shes hot in a normal way.

  7. Buran says:

    No. How about working with the public to come up with a mutually acceptable fix for the record/movie industrys’ ills, rather than shoving their ideas down our throats? Laws are supposed to be about protecting the society we want, not the society big business wants.

    The mass disobedience of the existing laws are proof that the laws are wrong. More draconian heavyhandedness isn’t the answer. Asking why the discontent exists and addressing that is.

  8. mikyrok says:

    “Criminalize “attempting” to infringe copyright”

    Would that provision put Steve Jobs away for announcing Apples new phone as the iPhone before he had rights to the name?

    Just an example of why its overbearing and unrealistic.

  9. joopiter says:

    @Buran: Silly Buran. You’re attempting to inject logic into the lawmaking process. Logic and rational thought were prohibited in DC a long time ago. Not enough money in it.

  10. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Wow. Big corporations and government, best friends forever!

  11. axiomatic says:

    OK, stop bitching and wait for the EFF or another org to help us get the letter/email flood going so we can nip this in the bud before it gets out of hand.

    Take action, please.

  12. royal72 says:

    let’s cut to the chase folks. internet regulation, that’s what this all comes down to.

  13. Art Vandelay says:

    So is this a back door for making bittorrent and all p2p programs illegal?

    Also, say you’re busted for copyright infringements for downloading music. Would a spindle of 100 cds be an action intending to consist of distribution?

  14. mantari says:

    @Falconfire: Homeland Security Log update for May 15, 2005. User “Falconfire” on the activist website known as “Consumerist” expresses the desire for a violent overthrow of the United States Government. Further investigation and monitoring of this anarchist is clearly warranted.

  15. kenposan says:

    @Buran: “Laws are supposed to be about protecting the society we want, not the society big business wants.”


  16. whitespider says:

    This sincerely makes me sick. I find it a crime for any product to be made which can be duplicated infinate number of times.. such as files and digital data.. and then expect other people to not do the same. In the case of music; stop whining, there is alway concerts, T-Shirts, endorsements, ect. In the case of software: Learn to make customer service or help-desk or support the source of income and not buying the product itself. Before Bill Gates (literally, before he entered the market with his new company) this sort of thing was strange and new. What else? Movies? Can’t help you there.. you decided to sell them on easy to copy little plastic discs, you pay for it.

    No one has ever proven that sales are really lost to pirates. Piracy is free, and buying a product is not.. someone who may have never considered buying a product may pirate it if suddenly given the opportunity.. it’s not Wal-Mart and supermarkets work; Deals = customers (in this case, free). You can’t take a customer away who you never had.

    This is only my view, though. I’m a young college kid and I feel my views are based on youth and the spring of a new millenium.

  17. VG10 says:

    Wow, just wow. I’m just about sick of large companies running the laws and our government. it’s just sick to think about all those poor americans who would lose their job if johnny got a pirate copied of spiderman 3. this guy needs to GTFO and fast.

    sad part about all of this is that the bill will be passed.

    this is one of the main reasons why i like ron paul, he wouldnt allow this to happen.

  18. kelmeister says:

    Why is copyright infringement now considered under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security?

  19. lincolnparadox says:

    Honestly, on paper this legislation should never touch the average person. It’s designed to protect media corps from businesses using stolen products and to go after people who create technology to counter DRM. However, if this law passes, our legal system is a single decision away from criminalizing everything from illegal downloading, to illegal streaming, to putting people who make websites like YouTube or programs like BitTorrent into lifers.

    IMHO, the entire legal code needs an overhaul. There are too many laws on the books that have been pushed through by lobbyists and special interests. You want to make a real change? Form an anti-lobby-lobby. Line the pockets of Congressmen with internet-donated money and voter direction, to convince them that lobbying needs to go.

    I know, it’s ironic, but fight the system from within. Imagine it, microdonations to buy Senators and Congresspeople. Online voter drives to steer polls and later steer elections. We’ve got the internet, let’s use it for something other than pron and streaming eps of “My Name is Earl!”

    What a wonderful world that would be!

  20. Art Vandelay says:

    For clarification, they’ve tried passing laws like this before to no avail. Given Gonzalez and Bush’s political capital, I don’t give this bill much more of a chance.

    Let’s make sure it stays that way this time around. We need to go beyond emails and call our elected representatives every day.

  21. 5cents says:

    Reeks of pre-crime a la Minority Report. Rationally, there is no way this would pass the courts.

  22. B says:

    “Convicted of a crime I didn’t even commit. Hah! Attempted murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel prize for attempted chemistry?”

    -Sideshow Bob

  23. bluemeep says:

    *throws up hands*

    That’s it. I’m moving to New Zealand.

  24. MeanMachine says:

    They are attempting asshattery.

  25. raindog says:

    This is an extremist first draft meant to provide an opportunity to come up with a final bill that still gives their Hollywood buddies still more power while appearing to be “willing to compromise.” I would guess it’s a response to the growing anti-DMCA sentiment even among Congress critters, meant to prevent anyone from getting any crazy ideas about, you know, repealing it or anything.

    You heard it here first.

  26. @lincolnparadox: “IMHO, the entire legal code needs an overhaul.”

    They overhaul it — usually section by section — constantly. There’s a group called NCCUSL that reccommends model state laws on an ongoing basis; there are also tax and federal law groups that do the same thing. For example, Illinois just overhauled its criminal code, which followed IMMEDIATELY on the heels of the LAST overhaul 20 years ago. The minute the last overhaul was done, it was out of date, and the new overhaul started — and took 20 years. And now that the new one is in place, it’s already out of date!

    Most states will overhaul “criminal law” or “procedures” or “administrative law” or “real estate law” statutes one section of the state law code at a time — doing it all at once is far too gargantuan a task, and is far too expensive. Particularly since the day you finish the overhaul, it’s obsolete.

  27. quantum-shaman says:

    Holy Panopticon Batman, life in prison for pirated software!?!

    The chances of this legislation passing as originally drafted are in direct proportion to the number of RIAA executives who have golf buddies on the Hill and/or who previously held an ES-grade position within some fetid government agency.


  28. altoidboy says:

    the flip side of this is that, according to an idg report released today (link:… software piracy has hit $40billion. that’s $40bil that belongs in the hands of talented programmers and companies that have invested in and are legal owners of software. that’s just software – not counting audio and video that’s mercilessly pirated. so before everyone piles on the justice dept. for daring to take a more aggressive stance on piracy, both sides should be considered.

  29. mac-phisto says:

    now it’s as important as ever to become a pirate. & not just a pirate. a booty-pimping pirate.

    asshattery is right. if it were ever possible to swallow your entire self right up your own ass, it would definitely be these jokers that would accomplish it. using intent laws to throw copyright violators in supermax?

    hey assberto – what’s the sentence on intending to obstruct justice? see you on d-block, bitch.

  30. catnapped says:

    @kelmeister: Because piracy emboldens the terrorists and hurts baby Jesus’s feelings!

  31. crayonshinobi says:

    The funny thing is that the current laws regarding copyright infringement are a lot like speed limits. Everyone agrees that we need them, but no one follows them.

    Oh wait…only big business media cartels like RIAA/MPAA thinks we need them. So why does the DMCA exist? Why does copyright last in perpetuity?

    Oh yeah, cause guys like Howard Berman and Lamar Smith are corrupt bribetakers, that’s why!

    So I guess no one wants these laws and no one follows them. I wonder why our representatives continue to legislate them…

    The scary thing is the DMCA started out as one of those “crazy laws” that shouldn’t get passed because any person with an IQ above 12 knows it’s a bad idea…and yet here we are…

  32. Falconfire says:

    @mantari: part of me really would get a kick out of that if they did. I’d love to see the record on me.

    Upstanding student, deans list, works in public education, military training in high school…. damn I would be a threat.

  33. codegrl says:

    If they want to put away ‘sorta’ copyright infringement criminals, they’ll have to let some inmates go…like the 20-somethings who were caught with a little pot and put away for life…They won’t however, they’ll let the child rapists and baby killers go first, ’cause you know, they’re like population control! Keep fear in the citizens and they’ll rely on the government to make them feel safe, and then…HEY! Look at that! More asshatted laws! Hooray for the USA!

  34. Spiny Norman says:

    I just wish that the EFF would publish a list of legislators and public servants who vote for and enforce trash like this. It’s time to vote the DMCA boys out of Congress. At least we know that Alberto is toast as of February 2009. Then he can go back to being the “Offical Asshat of Texas”.

    I can’t wait until some of these persecuted college students become elected officials. Then we get to watch the RIAA scurry in shrieking terror…if it even survives that long.

  35. mac-phisto says:

    get the farmers behind the move to nix this crap. there has been some upheaval in the agriculture business lately over small farmers being sued by agribusiness over allegedly using copyright-protected hybridized seeds in their crop. in more than one case, these seeds literally landed in the farmers’ fields.

    how does this apply? farmers could face jailtime simply for farming land that borders a field with hybridized seeds.

  36. GearheadGeek says:

    Alberto can’t be the Official Asshat of TX until our dear governor Rick Perry leaves the state, hopefully BEFORE he’s given all our highways away to foreign companies. Alberto can move to Crawford and live in a shack on George’s ranch on retainer in case George starts getting DUIs again.

  37. Morgan says:

    @Falconfire: If there’s anyone more dangerous than someone with military training, it’s someone who works in public education. Don’t you see? You’re like the perfect storm of terrorist potential!

  38. quantum-shaman says:

    @altoidboy: Let’s put this in a little clearer perspective for you:

    HIGHEST PIRACY RATES: Loathsome and frightening backwater outposts suitable for terrorists, assassins and vast mobs of toothless ne’er-do-wells.

    LOWEST PIRACY RATES: The educated world.

    So, for this very small level of piracy going on in the USA, we’re proposing to toss people in the klinker and throw away the key? Amazing. Just fuk’n amazing.

  39. axiomatic says:

    Yeah, our jails are already unnecessarily filled with non-violent drug offenders. Now we are going to fill it up with digital pirates?


    This is one of the dumbest ideas in a long time. Good job RIAA, you remain the LAUGHING STOCK of business.

  40. rmz says:

    Life imprisonment for using pirated software?

    Add a life-imprisonment sentence to taking corporate kickbacks from the RIAA and helping fund lawsuits against 10-year-old girls and peoples’ dead grandmothers and you’ve got a deal.

  41. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    What’s next? Getting in a car=”intended” speeding?

    You can’t cure stupidity. Fuck this, I’m going to Canada. Or New Zealand. Or Switzerland, who never does anything for anyone for any reason and freezes the other country’s assets if they get pissed off at it.

  42. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    And yes, that’s the sound of our founding fathers rolling over in their graves.

  43. I am feeling sick to my stomach and I have only read the first couple bullet points.

    I feel ill and disgusted and confused and sad and destroyed and hopeless. My god.

    I wish I could describe this awful feeling. I feel like something is dying inside of me. Who can we turn to for help?

  44. Mojosan says:

    Well…you could stop stealing or attempting to steal other people’s intellectual property…then you would not feel ill, disgusted, or confused.

    Just because you feel that you have the “right” to steal other people’s property does not make it so.

    If you feel the price is too high to buy a DVD or CD then don’t buy it. If enough people do the same the price will come down or the industry will change.

  45. Slytherin says:

    @Mojosan: Nah, I’ll just keep on downloading songs for free.

  46. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Gosh…’s not enough for RIAA to sue their customers, but now they have to put their customers in prison for life? Wow, someone in that executive suite needs a good ass-kicking.

    Welcome to the free market. Adapt or die. If you refuse to adapt, the invisible hand will kindly escort you out of the music industry.

  47. @Mojosan: Its not about the “right” to steal what we call intellectual property, its the fact that a crime that does not harm physical property or injure a person is treated with the same levity as those crimes that do.

    I am sickened by the fact that there are certain people in this country who feel that it is THEIR “right” to take freedom away from somebody on the mere suspicion that they were about to infringe on copyright. This is not about protecting peoples lives or physical property. This is about enslaving people for the purpose of protecting one’s pocketbook.

  48. Kashell says:

    @Mojosan: The point here is that the government is trying to regulate an industry when the problem lies in the industry itself. If the RIAA really wanted people to stop pirating music, they would support completely copy protected CD’s. That’s the only way to stop piracy, especially as technology continues to develop.

    This law is equal to all the terrible state laws concerning “probable cause” in police investigation. Is having an internet connection enough to make you guilty until proven innocent? We’ll see you in Henry’s Star Chamber.

  49. Charles Duffy says:

    @altoidboy: I’m a programmer by profession (with a company making medical software — such that the life-sentence thing could apply to folks pirating our products), and I think this is asshattery.

    We’re very, very able to prosecute commercial infringement of our software using civil law as it stands. These extra “tools” are unnecessary and excessive. Copyright infringement may not always be victimless — but treating it as worse than crimes which do much more concrete harm to a much more concrete victim makes a mockery of our legal system.

  50. Charles Duffy says:

    @Mojosan: Who said the feeling of disgust was related to being targeted by these laws?

    Seeing the government so blatently manipulated by special interests is cause for disgust in any concerned citizen.

  51. DudeAsInCool says:

    Corporate America had better wake up, or one day consumers are going to rise up and say ‘enuff’–not only are they greedy, but they buy off the legislators and write the laws, always to their benefit.

  52. jaewon223 says:

    @Mojosan: you work for the riaa dont you?

  53. jaewon223 says:

    in response to this article nobody can really estimate the loss from piracy. It’s too easy to just say that a person that owns a pirated copy of software is money lost. In all probability the person probably wouldn’t have purchased it to begin with. So you can’t just say that companies lost $xxx million, that’s really inflating the estimate.

    In addition I think at least for the music/movie industry piracy increases popularity for artists and actors. If all the 16 year old girls stopped downloading Ashlee Simpson, really who would be left to listening her music? Sorry for the double post, I just read that article now.

  54. SexCpotatoes says:

    So what’s the penalty for persecuting the innocent by bringing lawsuits against them for piracy they never committed?

    Or for extortion of college students?

  55. Trai_Dep says:

    It’s also worth mentioning that many brilliant Steve Wozniacs of tomorrow get their chops by doing proof-of-concept hacks, demos, etc. Likewise, that guy that broke the HDDVD key, and all the people that linked or posted that in comments on Digg?

    > Prison terms.

    It’s insane.

  56. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Where is this misguided angst coming from about the artists and the programmers? Does anyone really think these kinds of laws are made to protect them? Nay, it is the corporations who are wanting the money, not the artists and programmers whose take is typically 10% or much, much less.
    Music piracy? Stop charging so much for such crap, and release the harder-to-find stuff for me to buy instead of these expensive “imports” (ooOOoo).
    Software piracy? Is there any version of MeToo worth more than say…$25 or so?

  57. Libelous1 says:

    Judging by the “analysis” in the comments from the vast majority of you (a few notable exceptions), I thank God my kids are in private schools.

  58. j-o-h-n says:

    Where, presumably, the baby jeebus is teaching them to make non-sequiturs too?

  59. Felix the Cat says:

    Here is a nice copyright v freedom of speech case in Federal Court in Atlanta, called Target Corporation v John Doe, see it at:

    in brief Doe published the Target Corps security manual which reads in part:


    C. Five Steps for Apprehension
    Certified AP team members must observe all five steps prior to making a shoplifter apprehension.

    NOTE: If local law enforcement takes independent action and makes an apprehension before all five steps are met, the details must be documented in the CIRS report.

    1. Initiation of Observation – The subject must enter the store/area without possession of Target merchandise.
    2. Selection – The subject must be observed selecting Target merchandise from the display location.
    3. Concealment – The subject must be observed concealing the merchandise, or the AP team member must have NO reasonable doubt based on observations that the merchandise has been concealed by the subject.
    NOTE: If the merchandise is not actually concealed, it must be exposed as the subject exits or attempts to exit the store.
    4. Maintain Observation – The AP team member must maintain sufficient surveillance of the subject in order to know the location of the merchandise and ensure the subject does not discard the merchandise.
    NOTE: A Productive Merchandise Recovery (PMR) shall be attempted if surveillance is broken for any reason, or the AP team member can not maintain sufficient surveillance. (See PMR Directive).
    5. Failure to Pay for Merchandise/Exiting the Store -AP team member(s) must observe the subject attempt to exit the store without paying for the merchandise.
    NOTE: Some jurisdictions allow variances from the exiting requirement to allow apprehensions of concealed merchandise before an individual reaches the building’s exit. In these cases, the requirements must be documented and approved by the Director or Vice President of Assets Protection using the “Variance from Exiting Form” (found on the AP Zone).

    D. Restroom / Fitting Room Apprehensions
    AP team members are not allowed to conduct surveillance or make apprehensions in restroom and/or fitting rooms.
    1. AP team members are not allowed to follow subject’s into a restroom or fitting room to conduct surveillance.
    2. AP team members shall not ask another team member to enter a fitting room or restroom to conduct surveillance.
    B. Searches of Private Residence or Motor Vehicles
    1. AP team members will NOT participate in a search of a private residence or motor vehicle.
    1. Fleeing Shoplifter
    a. If a shoplifter attempts to flee after being confronted, do not give chase in any manner (running, driving, etc.).
    b. Store based AP team members shall not use any vehicle to follow or pursue a subject for any reason.
    c. AP team members shall not encourage, condone, suggest or ask another Target team member or anyone else to chase a fleeing shoplifter.
    2. AP shall refer for prosecution all individuals apprehended for retail theft when the value of the merchandise is $20.00 or greater and the case meets local prosecution requirements.
    NOTE: If a case meets/exceeds the $20.00 referral guideline, but is NOT referred, the reason for non-referral must be included in the CIRS narrative. (Example: Local jurisdiction limits require merchandise in excess of $75.00 in order for prosecution.)
    3. A team member witness, of the same gender of the suspected shoplifter , must be present in the room at all times during the detention.
    A. Photographing Shoplifters
    1. Adult shoplifters – AP shall photograph all adult shoplifters unless prohibited by local statutes or ordinances.
    2. Team Member Shoplifters – AP will not photograph any team member apprehended for shoplifting during working or non-working hours.
    3. Juvenile Shoplifters – AP will not photograph any juveniles apprehended for shoplifting, unless required by local statutes or ordinances.

  60. s00p3rm4n says:

    Thought crime is double plus bad.

  61. @s00p3rm4n: The proper form for bad is “ungood”. In doublespeak there is no bad. Only good. and its opppsite, Ungood.

  62. s00p3rm4n says:

    I unremembered that. Thank you.