U.S. lawmakers approved the creation of a cabinet-level position of copyright czar as part of sweeping intellectual property enforcement legislation that sailed through the Senate on Friday.
However, a controversial measure granting the Justice Department the authority to sue copyright infringers on behalf of Hollywood and the music industry was removed after the White House lobbied against assuming those new powers. . . .
The new copyright czar will oversee government anti-piracy crackdowns and, among other things, train other countries about IP enforcement. The legislation also creates an FBI piracy unit and allows for the forfeiture of equipment used in large pirating operations.
The intellectual property measure approved Friday was strongly backed by Hollywood, the recording industry, unions, manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. . . .
Digital rights groups, including Public Knowledge, opposed the measure.
Gigi Sohn, the group’s president, said the bill goes too far but she was nonetheless pleased that the Justice Department won’t be suing copyright infringers on behalf of the entertainment industry.
“We are pleased that the Senate bill as passed does not include the egregious provision allowing the Justice Department to file civil suits against alleged copyright violators on behalf of copyright holders,” she said.
The White House, in successfully pressuring for a rewrite to the legislation, said the original proposal requiring the attorney general to sue copyright infringers “could result in Department of Justice prosecutors serving as pro bono lawyers for private copyright holders regardless of their resources. In effect, taxpayer-supported department lawyers would pursue lawsuits for copyright holders, with monetary recovery going to industry.”
Sometimes that White House does things right. This fairly obscure policy choice by the President is huge, considering the extent to which copyright law is already, due to the cost of litigation, one-sided attorneys’ fees provisions and at least the threat of statutory damages, severely stacked in favor of copyright claimants — some of which are copyright holders — and against defendants.
Can anyone out there send along the names of the congressional sponsors of the original version of the bill as it included that corporate intellectual property welfare provision?
Meanwhile, what can we do to at least try to get them to hire Bill Patry for the first copyright autocrat?