Alberto Gonzales' Biggest Priority… Is Stricter Copyright Laws?

from the you-have-to-be-kidding dept

You would think with a war going on, the threat of terrorism and, well, a scandal at his office that many think will eventually force him to resign, that the Attorney General of the US would be pretty busy dealing with any of those things. Apparently not. AG Alberto Gonzales decided that now is the best time to ask Congress (who you might say isn’t particularly happy with him right now) to pass stricter intellectual property laws. He’s sent over the “Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007,” saying that he wants the Justice Department to spend more time and money cracking down on this apparent blight on the economy. Of course, he seems to be ignoring the recent studies both from the GAO and the OECD suggesting the “harm” is greatly exaggerated, mainly by industry lobbyists. Perhaps it’s not such a surprise that Gonzales would want to focus on something that appears unrelated to the various problems he’s been facing in his job. Of course, this isn’t the first time that Gonzales has been spotted giving out Hollywood’s talking points as if they were factual — so perhaps he’s just angling for a new job, once he eventually is forced to move on. In the meantime, you would think that, as the nation’s top lawyer, Gonzales would know that the Supreme Court has clearly explained the difference between stealing and infringement, but unfortunately in his latest talk he seems to ignore the Supreme Court and insist that “IP theft is not a technicality… it is stealing.” Update: Declan McCullough has more details on how ridiculous the bill is. It would make it a crime to “attempt” to infringe copyright. You can now be put in jail for life in some cases for using pirated software. Computers can be more easily seized in piracy investigations. My personal favorite, though, is that Homeland Security would be required to alert the RIAA when certain CDs are caught at the border (oddly, this only applies to the RIAA — not the MPAA or BSA).


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Comments on “Alberto Gonzales' Biggest Priority… Is Stricter Copyright Laws?”

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35 Comments
Adam (profile) says:

It's our only product

I can’t remember where I read this, but last week there was some insight as to why these laws and the MAFIAA are being pursued now in the face of strong consumer oppostion. The United States doesn’t make anything anymore. We import and outsource nearly everything but food. We’ve become a nation of managers and consumers and our only product which we have left, and can export, is Intelectual Property. Ideas. Those in power right now believe the future of the United States is making the rest of the world pay us for our patents and ideas. The next big boom for corporate America, or so they think and are trying to set the table for, is collecting payments on their patent and IP portfolios.

Phillip says:

Re: It's our only product

That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

There is plenty of items still being made and manufactured here. Sure we don’t need to make all the low tech mundane stuff here anymore, i.e. cheap toasters, blenders, cooking supplies.

However, a lot of the best equipment is made here and is more expensive. People who want something cheap will buy the foreign cheap appliances but the higher end stuff that a lot of people want and buy are made here.

Also, there are still a lot of automobiles manufactured here including foreign cars. Also, a lot of office supplies and paper is made here as well as most of the software.

Some stuff has been outsourced, but not everything makes sense to be nor needs to be made here or overseas.

ScaredOfTheMan says:

While we in the US sit here and allow our law makers to pass silly laws that stifle competition and dry out the well of innovation that makes this country great. Countries like China and India are quickly catching up and will soon surpass us specifically because they allow anyone to build on, modify and even Copy (that’s right copy!) any piece of technology, code or relevant IP they want.

The idea is, the collective greater good is served when everyone contributes.

Ultimately its our own fault for allowing Gonzo and crew to write and get these laws passed.

Hua Fang (profile) says:

Re: Codonology

Now and again, we, every intellectual, must ask the simple question: What is an idea or a concept? Where and when is each one of them originated from? Then, the big question: who should have an exclusive “Right” for a specific idea or concept or design, etc…. and how much the “right” should be socially responsible to, meaning the weight as a significance for the right to be legally established……

Along the extended line of reasoning from the topic, personally, I have some serious thought. It is called “Codonology” at http://www.Codonology.com

Please feel to make your comments.

James says:

Another idiotic spin of an article

From the above, it looks like most of the techdirt readers are communist dirt.

He is going after people who “PROFIT” from selling pirated items and counterfeit knockoffs. I have experienced this first hand. I read a study that 80% of certain brand name parts and accessories sold at mom and pop shops are counterfeit. I have also seen this first hand and had to shut down one of my businesses because I couldnt compete with the counterfeit knockoffs.

There are many stores that get closed down because they buy and sell pirated CD’s, software or DVD’s.

From the article, one of the provisions is:

The bill also proposes to strengthen restitution provisions ensuring copyright criminals forfeit “all of their illicit profits as well as any property used to commit their crimes”

I see no problem with the above provision. If you commit a crime, you should forfeit your equipment used in the crime and profit made from the crime. Who doesn’t agree with that?

Asmodeus Mictian says:

Re: Another idiotic spin of an article

–He is going after people who “PROFIT” from selling pirated items and counterfeit knockoffs. —

“It would make it a crime to “attempt” to infringe copyright. You can now be put in jail for life in some cases for using pirated software” (from the article)

No, it would make it a crime to ATTEMPT to INFRINGE. NOT profit, as ‘infringement’ also covers me giving a product away for no cost.

–I have experienced this first hand. I read a study that 80% of certain brand name parts and accessories sold at mom and pop shops are counterfeit.–

I would appreciate a citation on said study. Who was it done by? Who was it paid for by? What was the sample group? A ‘study’ can say anything it wants, that doesn’t mean that the information is true OR accurate.

–I have also seen this first hand and had to shut down one of my businesses because I couldnt compete with the counterfeit knockoffs.–

Perhaps this is your motivation for your vehemence when it comes to this topic.

–I see no problem with the above provision. If you commit a crime, you should forfeit your equipment used in the crime and profit made from the crime. Who doesn’t agree with that?–

I don’t.
When you follow this line of logic, it opens up abuse by the Men and Women who use the law to line the pockets of either themselves, or their ‘department’. This has been done in the past. Enough to spawn quite a few websites on the matter.

A lot of talk is given to the ‘slippery slope’ concept of certain laws. I believe this law does more harm than good and is being used to prop up an industry that simply refuses to adapt to a changing marketplace and customer needs.

My 2 cents.

A.A.M.

Anonymous Coward says:

You would think with a war going on, the threat of terrorism

You would think that the author would think before he writes. Alberto Gonzales has no control over “a war going on, the threat of terrorism”. Why would he be busy with those things?

As far as the “scandal” goes… It is a bunch of hype that costs the taxpayers a lot of money. It is about the firing US attorneys that the white house didn’t like. The white house has the right to do this, and Clinton did this when he held the office. Of course nobody complained when Clinton did this, they had more serious things to complain about like a cigar.

Mitch says:

Where does it say anything about people “Profiting”. Restitution provisions doesn’t only target people making profits. This is just the overpayed entertainment industry complaining instead of dealing with the problem themselves. If their products weren’t so overpriced there would be less demand for pirated materials. As for going after the rest of the world good luck. A lot of other countries have laws strongly protecting the consumer not the producer.

Stephen says:

Intellectual Property Law is the AG's New Port

Who can forget the AG’s last vital initiative in a country gone to blight: “FBI forms anti-porn squad” which had the greatest tagline not in “The Onion”:

“‘I guess this means we’ve won the war on terror,’ one agent says.”

I guess that one got the Bush Administration nowhere politically, so now they’re trying something new to distract people from their corruption and inefficiency.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/09/21/MNGRSER4141.DTL

Its a scandal says:

It is a scandal when the whitehouse circumvents data retention policies. They keep their email for a reason. Using an alternate address that gets its data wiped regulary is beyond scandalous. Makes me think there is more we don’t know. It is obvious Alberto isn’t afraid to lie about conversations that happened. Seems like the tip of the iceberg to me.

PhysicsGuy says:

Another idiotic spin of an article

http://news.com.com/8301-10784_3-9719339-7.html
“He is going after people who “PROFIT” from selling pirated items and counterfeit knockoffs.”

actually, you’re wrong. the article linked to here is not very specific, but there are already laws dealing with “for profit” copyright infringement. the proposed bill would extend beyond that.

“If you commit a crime, you should forfeit your equipment used in the crime and profit made from the crime. Who doesn’t agree with that?”

you have that all wrong. the bill makes it easier for one’s computer to be subject to forfeiture for ATTEMPTED copyright infringement.

Anonymous Coward says:

What about the identity theft problem. How about enacting stricter penalties for companies that do not properly dispose of their customers private data, or encrypt data on backup tapes or computer systems; most notably laptops. What about America’s broken health care and education system, or the lack of prison space needed for a rapidly growing population.

It seems to me that Gonzales has his priorities mixed up.

CoJeff says:

Whoa!

Am I the only one that finds this funny and sad? The song Alice’s Restaurant comes to mind, someone in jail for littering right next to really bad people.

Con: What you in for?
fish: Trying to copy software.
Con: Damn how long?
fish: Life, what about you?
con: I killed my wife, I get out on parole in 5 years.

Man I love our justice system!

reed says:

Gonzales: “Torturing people is ok with me, the Geneva Convention is just a recommendation.”

and now

“Pirating is bad, real bad.”

Yeah I know that drowning someone repeatedly is ok in the name of national security, but someone who copies zeros and ones needs to be stopped at all costs.

This is the ultimate tyranny, screw the individual and pray to the corporations for guidance.

AN says:

Exciting day for the music industry

Security would be required to alert the RIAA when certain CDs are caught at the border

I thing the exciting part is the government recognizing that the RIAA is the official arbiter of U.S. music sales. This is just the beginning. Just as the American Bar Association is given the power to determine who can legally practice law, the real great step forward will be giving the RIAA the power to police the music industry.

The real reason that record sales are down is that there are far too many albums on the market, diluting the sales. By allowing the RIAA to strictly regulate which bands are legally allowed to record and sell albums, this problem can be fought head-on. Surely 1-200 CD releases a year ought to be more than enough for anyone, and it will be much more reassuring for consumers to know that they can simply go down to the CD section at Wal-Mart and be able to find every album on the market.

This is an exciting time for the music industry, and we can thank the government for having the courage to lead the way!

Anonymous Coward says:

Even people who think this idea is dumb don't unde

From Wired’s coverage of this:

“The legislation’s most eye-catching provision dramatically increases the penalties for criminal activities that cause harm or death — such as hawking bogus Lipitor or adding a fake ‘UL’ logo to a power cable that doesn’t meet Underwriters Limited safety standards. Actions that knowingly or recklessly cause bodily harm would result in jail terms of up to 20 years, while those causing death could send a defendant away for life.”
http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/2007/05/ippa07

Neither one of the things mentioned are addressed by copyright (even this new attempt)…both are either trademark or patent issues, along with that good old standard that has been illegal for years: FRAUD.

So, the life imprisonment penalty is not part of a change to copyright law (which is 17 USC), but rather of other IP law (which is covered by 18 USC).

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