Yes, The IPAA Is A Serious Problem: Both In Process & Substance
from the but-doesn't dept
In the wake of this, BNA's Tamlin Bason correctly noted a few factual errors in what a few of us had originally published about the bill. For example, I flipped the setup of the bill, saying that the attaches would be moving from USPTO to Commerce, rather than the other way around, as is the actual case (though, confusingly, the bill also elevates a role from the USPTO into Commerce). I admit that this was a mistake in the writeup, though one that had little bearing on the actual issues raised by the bill and the process by which it was being rushed through. In fact, the process itself was partly to blame. We were told about the existence of this bill and the fact that there would be a markup with less than 24 hours notice last Monday, giving us little time process all the fine print.
While supporters of the Judiciary Committee are now using these minor mistakes to claim that there's nothing at all wrong with the IPAA, that's simply incorrect. Gigi Sohn's careful analysis of the bill shows where there are serious concerns in the substance, mainly in the fact that the role of the IP attache continues to be to only push one side of the equation (enforcement) and completely ignore important limitations and exceptions. On top of that, it leaves the door open to massive expansion of the program. This is exactly how we described it in our original post: a way to expand this program, and a questionable way to get US diplomats doing what's in Hollywood's best interest, not the public's:
Remember when everyone thought the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) only had authority to act with regard to “enforcement” as opposed to other IP policy matters? That limitation is nowhere to be found in the 2008 legislation that created the position or in its legislative history, and there is nothing in this bill that limits the Assistant Secretary's powers either.In fact, as Gigi points out, the role that will be elevated is the Administrator for Policy and External Affairs, which will become the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Policy and External Affairs -- a much more high profile position. It's worth noting that the job is currently held by Shira Perlmutter, an infamous copyright maximalist, former executive VP of the IFPI as well as IP Policy boss at Time Warner. Think she's going to push for more exceptions and limitations? Yeah, right.
In addition, the Secretary of Commerce is given carte blanche to hire as many Deputy Assistant Secretaries to help as the USPTO can afford. This means that overnight, the USPTO would become the home of yet another office dedicated wholly to the protection of intellectual property.
Have we told you that the USPTO already has personnel dedicated to Intellectual Property Enforcement? It should come as no shock to anyone that these new positions, as well as the attache positions, are likely to be filled by those who believe that more IP enforcement is always better.
But, honestly, the bigger complaint here is still the process itself. People complained about SOPA being negotiated in back rooms without a chance for real public input. Just because Smith and the HJC chose a seemingly "boring" piece of SOPA to try to rush through without people noticing, don't think this wasn't a deliberate decision. Of course they chose a boring piece of SOPA. It was a test to see if people were really that concerned about the process, and to see if they could sneak through this bit of SOPA without anyone noticing. The fact that people spoke up stopped that temporarily, but these attacks on minor errors in the initial rushed writeups shows that the HJC is now trying to minimize the criticism -- though it still hasn't actually released the draft of the bill for public review. While Reddit has been saying that there's a vote on the IPAA on Wednesday, it doesn't appear to be on the schedule yet, though we have heard rumors of Friday or early next week from different people.
Smith and the HJC could have avoided this whole mess by doing something simple: being open and releasing the bill and letting the public react to it before rushing it through markup. Nancy Scola, over at ReadWriteWeb has a really good writeup on Lamar Smith's failings with this bill, which focus on the process failures, and the fact that Smith clearly tried to rush this through:
Fifty days.As Scola points out, it's clear that IPAA was a "trial balloon" to see if they could sneak IP stuff through in a post-SOPA era: pick something that is good for his Hollywood backers, but which is "maybe just dry enough" that it can fly below the radar and get passed.
That's the median time it took for eight legislative bills - on economic espionage, identity theft, abortion in the District of Columbia - to circulate in the House of Representatives before they were put on the agenda for Tuesday's markup session by the House Judiciary Committee.
That's how long the ninth bill on the agenda, a measure submitted by Judiciary chair Lamar Smith, existed before it was submitted for Tuesday's markup. Unlike the other eight (H.R. 6029, H.R. 4362, H.R. 3803... ), Smith's Intellectual Property Attaché Act didn't even have a number. It had yet to be introduced into the House legislative system.
That's legislating the future of copyright, the Internet and creative content, Lamar Smith-style.
We apologize for making a small error in our initial post -- though, we likely wouldn't have done so if Smith had done as he supposedly promised other members of Congress and released the draft long before it went through the markup process. Instead, by trying to sneak stuff through and see if anyone was paying attention, we missed one minor detail in the bill, but not the larger concern nor the serious process issues. If the HJC and Lamar Smith don't want to see these kinds of reactions, they should be a hell of a lot more open about what they are trying to do. But, of course, that might make it more difficult to get Hollywood's agenda to move forward. I guess that's the dilemma they face.
* The initial report also stated that Darrell Issa was a co-sponsor of the bill. Scola's report quotes his office saying that it's simply untrue and that Issa is not a co-sponsor. We've heard similar things as well, and a few others named in the original report have since said they, too, were not co-sponsors.