The Senate Judiciary Committee passed its version of a bill to boost protections for intellectual property.
The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act, introduced in July, has the backing of Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the committee’s chairman and ranking member, respectively.
It would create a post in the White House to coordinate enforcement of IP laws by various government agencies; would require coordinating with Congress to develop a strategic play to combat IP theft; and would boost resources for IP enforcement, all similar to provisions in the House PRO-IP bill, which passed by a wide margin in May.
It would also give the Justice Department the power to bring civil cases against suspected copyright infringers. Currently, it can only pursue criminal prosecutions and must rely on aggrieved copyright owners to file civil suits.
The bill attempts to bring together a number of Senate bills on the subject, as well as to mirror the House’s PRO-IP Act.
Despite that effort at consolidation, a separate IP-related bill was introduced Wednesday that would boost international piracy-prevention efforts.
NBC executive and IP bill-proponent Rick Cotton pointed out that the vote was 14 to 2. "The committee passed this with strong, bipartisan support," he said. "We hope that will lead the Senate to pass this bill very quickly."
"For the video content business," says Cotton, "this bill would create both leadership and resources within the federal government and internationally to reduce significantly the tidal wave of counterfeit content that currently undercuts our business."
Cotton is chair of the Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy and executive VP and general counsel for NBC.
Also praising the committee was the Copyright Alliance, a group of media companies including broadcasters and publishers (one of those being B&C parent Reed Elsevier). The alliance also echoed the call for action and emphasized the need for speed.
“While today’s action is great progress for creators everywhere," the group said, "time is running short. It is imperative that the full Senate act quickly to approve this important piece of legislation and that the House pass the same bill. With our economy at its lowest point in years, we need the economic stimulus of anti-piracy actions, and we need copyright-enforcement legislation on the president’s desk this year."