Bush Administrators Object To Proposed IP Law

Patrick LeahyThe Bush Administration has weighed in against a proposed intellectual property law that would authorize the Attorney General to bring civil lawsuits against alleged file-sharers.

"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," officials wrote in a letter to Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who are among the bill's sponsors.

The entertainment industry-backed bill, the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act (S. 3325), passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee 14-4 earlier this month. In addition to authorizing the government to bring lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers, the bill would enable the president to appoint a copyright czar.

The administration's objections are similar to ones raised by digital rights advocates--namely that government officials should not pursue civil lawsuits for the benefit of the entertainment industry.

The bill "could result in Department of Justice prosecutors serving as pro bono lawyers for private copyright holders regardless of their resources," states the letter, signed by Keith Nelson, principal deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, and Lily Claffee, general counsel at the U.S. Department of Commerce. "In effect, taxpayer-supported Department lawyers would pursue lawsuits for copyright holders, with monetary recovery going to industry."

Earlier this month, the organizations Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Digital Future Coalition said in a letter to lawmakers that the act would confer "an enormous gift of federal resources to large copyright owners."

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