Attempted copyright infringement = Attempted murder?

by Karoli on May 15, 2007 · 158 comments

This goes into the “Things that should scare you” category:

Via CNET News:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is pressing the U.S. Congress to enact a sweeping intellectual property bill that would increase criminal penalties for copyright infringement, including “attempts” to commit piracy.

Some of the scariest provisions:

Create a new crime of life imprisonment for using pirated software. Anyone using counterfeit products who “recklessly causes or attempts to cause death” can be imprisoned for life. During a conference call, Justice Department officials gave the example of a hospital using pirated software instead of paying for it.

This makes very little sense to me — what difference should it make whether it’s pirated? Any product which would “recklessly cause or attempt to cause death” seems to me to be the issue, not whether it’s pirated. But wait, it gets better…

* Permit more wiretaps for piracy investigations. Wiretaps would be authorized for investigations of Americans who are “attempting” to infringe copyrights.

You steal my Flickr photos; they tap your phone. Seem fair to you? Gives me the willies.

Add penalties for “intended” copyright crimes. Currently certain copyright crimes require someone to commit the “distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of at least 10 copies” valued at over $2,500. The IPPA would insert a new prohibition: actions that were “intended to consist of” distribution.

How exactly are they going to determine intent? If I buy a DVD and a spindle of 100 blank DVDs, would that be viewed as intent? One could have absolutely no relation to the other whatsoever, but could be construed as intent to duplicate and distribute DVDs. But WAIT…there’s even more.

The scariest of them all:

Require Homeland Security to alert the Recording Industry Association of America. That would happen when compact discs with “unauthorized fixations of the sounds or sounds and images of a live musical performance” are attempted to be imported. Neither the Motion Picture Association of America nor the Business Software Alliance (nor any other copyright holder such as photographers, playwrights, or news organizations, for that matter) would qualify for this kind of special treatment.

Doesn’t DHS have enough on their hands already protectin’ us from terrorists? Do we really need to put pirates on their plate? What are they thinking?

Under this provision, I could have been reported to the RIAA for recording Sticks’ performance at the street concert last month. I could be on my way to jail RIGHT NOW. I would most certainly be tagged as ‘one to watch’.

Robert Scoble wonders if reading and sharing an RSS feed would be ‘attempted piracy”.

Totalitarian society…that’s what Gonzales wants. Be afraid, be aware, fight it.

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