This precis on GigaLaw caught my eye: “The Bush administration isn’t ready to curtail its crackdown on copyright crimes as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asked Congress for stronger criminal penalties for repeat offenders and stiffer penalties for counterfeiters who cause people to be injured or die.” Huh? Counterfeiters who cause people to be injured or die? The linked article passed along this tidbit of information without comment or explanation (not a strength, perhaps, of The Hollywood Reporter). I had to understand the link between copyright infringement and death.
The reason for this alarming warning is the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007, proposed on Monday to Congress (see here and here) by beleaguered Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.* (Aside: read this article from today’s New York Times. It describes how Gonzales, then White House Counsel, along with White House chief of staff Andrew Card, tried to convince Attorney General John Ashcroft, hospitalized and “critically ill with pancreatitis,” to renew the National Security Agency’s clandestine domestic surveillance program. Ashcroft, an architect of the USA-PATRIOT Act and no civil rights zealot, refused to renew the program due to his concerns about its constitutionality.) Gonzales’s proposed act would criminalize copyright infringement far beyond current law. Among other things it would:
- Increased penalties for repeat offenders,
- Expand forfeiture provisions for criminal copyright infringement (which means one’s computer, iPod, or house could be taken upon conviction, just as if the person were a drug dealer),
- Empower the federal government to engage in wiretap surveillance in copyright investigations,
- Criminalize attempted copyright infringement, and
- Impose prison sentences of up to 20 years for infringement that results in bodily harm, or life if the infringing activity results in death. Examples of such potentially physically-harmful infringement include (per Wired) “hawking bogus Lipitor or adding a fake “UL” logo to a power cable that doesn’t meet Underwriters Laboratories’ safety standards.”
The Act does not yet have a House or Senate sponsor. If it passes it imagine the possibilities: Law and Order: Piracy Unit. “Now drop those blank CDs, put your hands over your head, and back away from the computer!”
*A Google search for the exact phrase produced 3,490 results. A search for those words not in that exact order produced 44,600 results. How many results does it take for this guy to resign?