Gonzales Proposes Dramatic Rewrite of Copyright Law

Anne Winter
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has proposed a new intellectual property bill, drastically rewriting current copyright law to, among other things, criminalize "intent" and "attempt" to infringe.

The Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007 increases penalties and crimes that fall under the umbrella of copyright infringement, and also permits the government to play a more active — and intrusive — role in copyright investigation.

Current law states that penalties for copyright infringement can be made only if infringement had taken place. The IPPA would make even the attempt a crime.

"It is a general tenet of the criminal law that those who attempt to commit a crime but do not complete it are as morally culpable as those who succeed in doing so," the Justice Department wrote in its summary review of the bill.

Also under the law, officials would be allowed to bug offices to aid in their copyright infringement investigation, and computers "intended to be used in any manner" to violate copyright law would be more easily seized.

Adult industry lawyer Robert Apgood, a self-proclaimed "champion of the protection of intellectual property rights," said he condemns piracy, but that what Gonzales has proposed is nothing more than a way to decimate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

"I absolutely cannot and do not support what Gonzales is trying to do in expanding the already frightening scope of wiretaps and seizures," Apgood said. "We must all look suspect on proposed legislation by the current executive that purports to protect the rights of those whose interests they have consistently opposed."

Last week, Apgood successfully argued on behalf of Falcon Foto, which was awarded $3.2 million in damages after 3,133 of its images were posted on websites and FHGs by the parent company of Porn Kings.

1st Amendment lawyer J. D. Obenberger told XBIZ he "despises designer crimes" proposed by lobbyists acting on behalf of trade groups with an axe to grind.

"These laws generally stack all available presumptions against the consumer, defendant, individual to the maximum extent possible and make life as easy as possible for the industry interest," Obenberger said.

Obenberger also said he's not completely convinced that there should be any crime in copyright infringement, and that the financial responsibility of enforcing the law should be put on the copyright holders themselves.

"Why should our tax dollars pay to protect recording artists, movie producers and composers?" Obenberger said. "It's got the hallmarks of protecting special, contributing interests. When's the last time that DOJ stepped in to protect the copyright of adult content anywhere? Does anyone reasonably expect that to happen in this lifetime?"

1st Amendment lawyer Jeffrey Douglas told XBIZ that Gonzales is continuing the Bush administration's agenda of turning the U.S. into a highly regulated society where governance is imposed by fear and threat.

"The proposal does little to protect the intellectual property rights of creators," Douglas said. "Representing, as I do, members of the portion of the entertainment industry more badly bruised by infringement and piracy than any other, I find these proposals to represent avoidance of the issues, rather than a good faith effort at addressing them."

The IPPA has the support of the Bush administration, as well as the Motion Picture Association of America, and is one of several proposals reportedly being reviewed by the House Judiciary subcommittee in charge of intellectual property.