Indefensible provision dropped from bad copyright bill

by Paul William Tenny

The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008, which was a massive gift to billion dollar corporations like Disney, unfortunately passed the Senate yesterday while all of Washington was supposedly scrambling to fix the mess that they had created on Wall Street when Republicans pushed through massive amounts of deregulation a number of years ago. As bad as this bill is, it got just a little less repulsive at the very last minute when a provision that Big Media was absolutely drooling over was removed from the legislation at the request of the Department of Justice.

Forgive the political rhetoric, but when even the Bush DoJ (endorsed torturing prisoners, illegal domestic spying, and indefinite military detentions of American citizens without charge) doesn't like something, you know something is rotten on the Hill.
The provision would have given the DoJ the power to file civil suits against your average, every-day music pirates. We're not talking about organized crime here where people conspire in secret groups to steal millions of dollars worth of intellectual property en masse, but basically anyone that has ever downloaded a song from a file sharing network.

Your children or even your own mother would have been the target of civil action paid for by you and every other tax paying American with all the profitable judgments going directly into the pockets of companies like Disney.

The DoJ is already empowered to go after organized crime with criminal copyright infringement statutes and does so regularly on its own, but this heinous provision would have shifted the civil lawsuits that don't result in jail time -- just monetary fines -- to the federal government even when companies like Disney can easily afford these lawsuits themselves, if not better than the government can.

This would have been a huge shift in burden from private rights holders who are already empowered by law to sue and receive damages for copyright infringement, to the federal government with no real benefit for the people. This isn't the kind of legislation that Congressmen dream up on their own, folks, this was paid for via campaign donations and possibly even written directly by corporate lobbyists as was the case with the recent retroactive immunity for AT&T. It benefits only their clients whose bottom line's are bigger than the GDP of some small countries.

It is the quintessential example of corporate America dictating new laws to Congress to be used against those corporations own customers.

Even the DoJ was opposed to the civil enforcement provisions and complained loudly and sternly that it could neither afford to prosecute music pirates, and even if it could, it simply didn't have the time with everything else on its plate. You know, things like murder, fraud (investigations have recently been launched against as many as 26 Wall Street firms), and terrorism.

Complaints from public interest groups who argued that these corporations were more than capable of funding their own lawsuits fell on deaf ears that were only tuned to the whines and needs of Big Media. Only when the DoJ told Congress to get lost did the provision finally disappear.

Big Media can't be too happy about this, and the legislation was still unnecessary corporate greed gifted upon Disney, Viacom, and other multinational conglomerates by pathetic Congressman who will write a law for any lobbyist with enough cash.

But it could have been worse.
in Digital Media, Legal


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