Posted November 13, 2007 6:47 pm by with 7 comments

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Online file sharing that could lead to piracy could also lead to federal punishment, if a new bill passes. The Intellectual Property Enforcement Bill of 2007 was introduced last week by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX). The proposed bill would amend the Trademark Act of 1946.

Among the bill’s provisions (emphasis added):

Sec. 3. Improved Investigative and Forensic Resources for Enforcement of Laws Related to Intellectual Property Crimes. Requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to dedicate a minimum of 10 agents to work with the Department of Justice on intellectual property crimes. Also requires the assignment of one agent located in Budapest and one agent located in Hong Kong, “to assist in the coordination of enforcement of intellectual property laws between the United States and foreign nations.”

Finally, the section requires implementation of a comprehensive training program focused on intellectual property crimes, and the formation of an Organized Crime Task Force with directions to study organized crime relating to intellectual property theft. [Look out, folks, the mob is stealing songs now, too!] $12 million is authored for each of fiscal years 2007 through 2011.

Section 4. Additional Funding For Resources to Investigate and Prosecute Criminal Activity Involving Computers. Authorizes an additional $10 million for the FBI and DOJ to hire and train additional agents and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute criminals for intellectual property crimes.

Now there’s a government contract I’d bid on: $10m to say, “This is BitTorrent. Let’s see which files here should be copyrighted.”

As always, I’ll close with a quick civics lesson:

  • The bill has been read into the record and committed to the proper committee (Judiciary, in this case).
  • In committee it will be discussed, hacked to death amended and voted upon.
  • If the committee comes up with a final version that they like, they recommend it to the whole house. It goes on the calendar to be voted upon.
  • If it passes, the bill must go to the House of Representatives, where we repeat steps 1-3 (if Congress hasn’t already adjourned).
  • If it passes the House and the House’s version of the bill is different from the Senate’s, and the Senate doesn’t like the House’s version, they go to a conference committee, composed of representatives and senators, to work out their differences. The House and the Senate vote again on the final version from this committee.
  • Assuming it’s survived this far, it’s ready for the President to sign, veto or pocket veto. If he signs it, or if he neglects to veto it within a deadline (set within the bill itself), the bill becomes a law. It’s all grown up.

As you can see, we have a long way to go before you should start worrying about canceling your P2P accounts. (Unless the RIAA gets you, then it’s too late.)


Clarification: While the bill does seek changes to define “Criminal Infringement” in the Trademark Act, this is mostly for civil actions.

  • So, an already crowded and over populated jail system will now be even more packed.

    With 23 year old file sharing geeks.

    Who deserve to be in jail with drug dealers, murderers, and rapists……

    Maybe a fine, but common, a federal crime?!

  • Jordan McCollum

    Oh, whoops. Should have clarified that: while the bill does seek changes to define “Criminal Infringement” in the Trademark Act, this is mostly for civil actions.

  • A crime is a crime… stealing is still stealing…
    And jail is jail!

  • The ‘could lead to’ part is a little troubling. Everything could lead to something else. That sounds very vague and would set a dangerous precedent.

  • Sounds to me like the recording industy is in a panic, perhaps fearing obliteration or perhaps fearing becoming obsolete?

  • Pingback: The World As We Know It Is No More « Gina’s Blog()

  • “Organized Crime Task Force with directions to study organized crime relating to intellectual property theft”

    lets see them putting out this much force on the real problems in our life.. (not Iraq)

    MPAA and RIAA will throw money on anyone and anything to help them to make more money in the near future..
    where it will stop?

    poor geeks will do time in jails?