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Attempted Copyright Infringement and Domestic Surveillance

May 15, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

This is suspicious. Just a few days after the House of Representatives voted on an amendment to the 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act that states that the administration must comply with FISA in order to engage in wiretapping, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has begun pressing for Congress to pass a bill that would vastly expand the government’s ability to legally eavesdrop on citizens.

The bill that the administration is proposing, which they are calling the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007, would, among other things, expand punishable copyright infringement violations to include “attempted copyright crimes.” Furthermore, it would authorize the use of wiretapping for investigations of attempted copyright infringement.

The problem is that anyone with a broadband connection or a DVD burner could potentially be investigated under this proposal. Robert Scoble wonders how far the definition of “intent” could be taken:

>How will they know what is a legitimate and illegitimate attempt? If I read a feed is that an attempt? After all, people can use RSS to copy my content without my permission. IE, infringe on my copyrights. If I try to rip a DVD to my hard drive for my own use, is that an attempt? If I copy my new Office 2007 DVD over to my hard drive so I can have the original source files on my hard drive in case I need to reinstall, is that an attempt?

It could be a slippery slope, undoing the recent House amendment and making it possible for the government to once again wiretap whoever they please. Harold Feld thinks that, as a slippery slope, it is strategically well placed in one of the Democrats’ soft spots:

>While the Dems have shown themselves much more concerned with protecting civil liberties in the name of the War on Terror then the Republicans, the Dems have a known soft-spot for the intellectual property mafia. In one of the delightful ironies of the politics of special interest, aggressive civil liberties hawks like Dianne Fienstien and Barabara Boxer turn into chearleaders for the most draconian measures imaginable when it comes to “fighting piracy.”

The “intellectual property mafia” that Feld is referring to is, presumably, the business interests in Hollywood, who will almost certainly back this bill and lobby lawmakers to support it. Besides increasing government surveillance, the bill could be effective at cracking down on file sharing.

The bill has yet to be introduced to Congress. We’ll update you as soon as it gets a sponsor and a bill number and is up on OpenCongress. By the way, the link to the CNet story was submitted to us as an anonymous tip. Anyone can use our “submit a tip” form to tell us about any Congress-related news or gossip that you want us to report on.

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  • Anonymous 05/16/2007 10:28am

    The legislation does not make sense. The phone company is needed to monitor calls. The ‘backbone’ has to be accessed. A splitter accesses the entire backbone, but it is run on nodes like Pebbles and BamBam. Nodes may be the way to access, but every phone call is diferent and may go through a different node, so all of them have to be accessed.

    The NSA has always done domestic suvellance another way. The phone company is needed because the land lines are how warrants are gotten(wiretapping for investigations), a cell phone may need a different warrant, but has to go through a switch in the land lines, unless it has changed going from cell to cell, in which case the cell itself can be accessed and all informantion retrieved the same as land lines. It is also possible to locate the cell based on which cells are being used.

    The CIA is pushing for domestic rights that they have already had in the charter in other legislation. The DIA is doing the same because the CIA analysts have been moved to DoD/NSA based on CIA’s doubling the number of employees(in Bush’s speech) and the excuse was for linguists, also in current legislation is schooling(all) for languages as a matter of National Security.

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