Yesterday, I sent the following to my Senators, Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, about the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008, currently up before the Senate as S.3325:
I’m writing about pending legislation, S.3325, “To enhance remedies for violations of intellectual property laws, and for other purposes.”
It’s section 506a with which I take exception:
“the Attorney General may commence a civil action”: The Department of Justice should not be in the business of suing in civil court on behalf of copyright owners. It’s the copyright owner alone who should be responsible for that, as is currently specified.
Allowing the Department of Justice to file civil copyright-infringement suits does not provide protection for the small copyright owners (on whose behalf the DoJ will not likely be working), and opens the door to influence by large industry, which can press the executive branch to do its job for it — a job that it has already proven that it can do on its own.
“Imposition of a civil penalty under this section does not preclude any other criminal [...] remedy”: This amounts to a form of double jeopardy, wherein the Attorney General pursues a civil action and then takes criminal action as well. This is all the more reason that the AG should stick to the criminal side, and it should be left to the copyright owners to bring civil suit.
This bill is supported by some of the “good guys”; it was introduced by Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy (VT), Evan Bayh (IN), and Dianne Feinstein (CA), as well as Republicans Spector (PA), Voinovich (OH), and Cornyn (TX), from whom I’d expect to see this sort of thing, and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have signed on as sponsors.
The rest of the bill, which increases penalties and the like, is fine, but the part that allows the Justice Department to get involved in civil suits on behalf of the RIAA and its kin is misguided.