New Bill Seeks To Let DHS Agents Coordinate More With Private Companies In Seizing Property (Like Domains)
from the this-again dept
One of the ones that didn't show up in SOPA has now made its way into a new legislative proposal, H.R. 4216: Foreign Counterfeit Prevention Act, introduced by Reps. Ted Poe and Steve Chabot. The text of the bill seems simple enough. It changes 18 USC 1905, which currently forbids federal officials from revealing to private parties' information that they come across during investigations. The new bill seeks to make an exception to that: allowing Homeland Security/Customs & Border Patrol agents to share pre-seizure info or products with trademark and copyright holders.
Now, on its face, this might make sense. It's a way for CBP officials to ask copyright and trademark holders if their rights are being abused by potentially infringing products. But, as we noted when the White House first asked for this law, this hasn't always worked out so well in the past, in part because copyright and trademark holders are often not particularly truthful when asked if they infringe -- and they rarely, if ever, give any thought to fair use or other legitimate uses of their copyrights and trademarks. In fact, one of the reasons why the federal government screwed up so badly in seizing Dajaz1 was because it relied on bad claims by the RIAA, who insisted that works that were not infringing were infringing. Organizations like the RIAA have little incentive to get these things right. And this bill encourages greater coordination with those private parties?
The simple fact is that infringement is determined not by the copyright or trademark holder, but through a court process and adversarial hearing. Having Homeland Security sharing more info with private companies seems like a situation that is ripe for abuse. We've already seen how Homeland Security sometimes appears to act as the the private police force of certain private companies. Are we sure that we really want to create a situation that encourages more such activities?