Justice Proposes Copyright Crackdown

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The Justice Department has sent Congress proposed legislation that would help it crack down on intellectual property crimes like the illegal duplication and distribution of copyrighted video and audio.

In announcing the legislative package, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, said: "Intellectual property crimes have become too common," he said. "Counterfeit and pirated goods are easy to access - from bootleg CDs, DVDs and games...to fake watches and sunglasses on streetcorners...to online file sharing."

Gonzales said the new laws would "strengthen penalties for repeat copyright criminals, expand criminal intellectual property protection, and add critical investigative tools for both criminal and civil enforcement."

Some of those tools don't sit well with "fair-use" fans, however.

Making the “attempt” at copyright infringement the same as actual infringement puts it in the same category as far more serious criminal offenses," said fair-use lobby Public Knowledge in a statement.

“The bill would eliminate the requirement that a copyrighted work be registered before the government could pursue a criminal copyright infringement claim.

"Current copyright law requires a copyrighted work to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office before an infringement suit can be filed--regardless of whether it is a civil or criminal suit. While this change might increase the Department’s ability to apprehend copyright infringers, it would have an overall negative effect by discouraging copyright registration."

Content providers, arguably led by NBC Universal Chairman Bob Wright, have been pushing for stronger copyright protections and stepped-up pursuit of IP pirates, arguing they threaten hundreds of billions of dollars across a host of sectors and could impede the transition to digital content distribution.

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