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)


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