Smith's bill adds fangs to copyright laws

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Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Courts, the
Internet and Intellectual Property, has introduced a bill to put more teeth
into enforcement of copyright laws, essentially updating enforcement to reflect
the ease of copyright infringement in the age of the Internet.

Officially, the bill's tripartite goal is to "enhance criminal enforcement of
the copyright laws, educate the public about the application of copyright law to
the Internet and clarify the authority to seize unauthorized copyrighted
works."

The bill deals primarily with sharing over so-called peer-to-peer networks,
where billions of files are traded, including illegal copies of copyrighted
works such as movies, TV shows and music.

The legislation would direct the FBI and the Department of Justice to get the
message out that swapping copies of protected works on the Internet is illegal.

It would also charge the Commerce Department with helping to police corporations and the
Department of Education with policing educational institutions.

Copyright owners would even get to use the FBI seal as a deterrent on
physical and digital copies.

Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti called the bill
a "sensible step forward" in educating the public and giving the government the
tools to better fight theft of intellectual property.

That fight, in an age of easy digital duplication, is one of the MPAA's chief
concerns.

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