This doesn't come as a total
surprise, because the Bush Administration had said something similar
last year about the House's ProIP bill, but the Justice Department has come out very strongly against Senator Leahy's proposed bill
that would let the Justice Department take on civil copyright lawsuits, effectively becoming Hollywood's private enforcement agency. What's impressive is how much of the argument seems to mimic the EFF's concerns
We strongly oppose Title I of the bill, which not only authorizes the Attorney General to pursue civil remedies for copyright infringement, but to secure "restitution" damages and remit them to the private owners of infringed copyrights. First, civil copyright enforcement has always been the responsibility and prerogative of private copyright holders, and U.S. law already provides them with effective legal tools to protect their rights....
Second, Title 1's departure from the settled framework above could result in Department of Justice prosecutors serving as pro bono lawyers for private copyright holders regardless of their resources. In effect, taxpayer-supported Department lawyers would pursue lawsuits for copyright holders, with monetary recovery going to industry.
Third, the Department of Justice has limited resources to dedicate to particular issues, and civil enforcement actions would occur at the expense of criminal actions, which only the Department of Justice may bring. In an era of fiscal responsibility, the resources of the Department of Justice should be used for the public benefit, not on behalf of particular industries that can avail themselves of the existing civil enforcement provisions.
The "good" news is that this statement has apparently convinced the Senate to remove that part of the bill. Senator Ron Wyden introduced an amendment that took out the part where the White House gets to handle civil cases, but the rest of the bill still moves forward (and don't be surprised to see future efforts push to get the Justice Department back in on private enforcement).