As a student in a graduate publishing program, I should be happy that President Bush signed the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act (Pro-IP Act) into law a few weeks ago. I guess I should be a supporter of intellectual property laws in the first place. You may even say that it would be my responsibility as a future publishing professional to back stricter and stricter IP laws, ensuring that my authors will never, ever lose any possible earnings to those dastardly copyright infringers. Well, after reading Stephan Kinsella's Against Intellectual Property during college, my views on the validity of IP laws have drastically changed. Yet even if I were a supporter of IP laws in general, this newest addition to the IP canon would have me worried.
I admit that until performing research for this article, I don't believe I had ever actually read the text of an act, bill, or any piece of legislation. As I carefully read Section 301 of the Pro-IP Act, which lays out the duties of and powers given to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Representative, I was both amused and disturbed by what I learned.
The Pro-IP Act provides the freshly-minted IP Czar with a wide variety of powers, created with such vague statements as "carry out such other functions as the President may direct" and "issue such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the functions vested in the IP Enforcement Representative." The individual appointed to this cabinet-level position may delegate any of his "functions, powers, or duties" to basically anyone he chooses, and more importantly, he may adopt an official seal. Other perks of being the IP Czar include:
So what does the Pro-IP Act actually mean for us? Increased fines and penalties for you and more power to the DOJ. Statuatory damages are now doubled. Broadly interpreted, the DOJ could seize any equipment used in the commission of the crime, including the property of third parties like employers or ISPs. If there is any positive outcome from this legislation, it may be that it will become easier to register a copyright because now minor errors in registration will not invalidate the registration.
Now that we have spent over $1.2 trillion on the Iraq War, I am relieved to know that the Congressional Budget Office expects that we will only plunk down another $435 million over the 2009-2013 time frame for the enforcement of the Pro-IP Act. As David Leohardt from the New York Times ponders what we could do with $1.2 trillion, its easy to think the same about the projected $435 million we United States citizens will be required to fork over for the government to protect the MPAA and RIAA.
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