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Controversial IP Bill Up for Quick Passage

September 26, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

The House suspension calendar is supposed to be for passing non-controversial bills by wide margins. So why is S.3325, a bill that is opposed on OpenCongress by a unanimous vote of 93-0, on the suspension calendar today?

Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge wrote about this bill on the Huffington Post yesterday:

>At the same time that our financial institutions are crumbling and taxpayers are footing the bill, the Senate is rushing to pass, of all things, a bill that would spend additional taxpayer dollars on civil law suits against alleged copyright infringers. S. 3325, the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Act of 2008 would, for the first time, give the Justice Department the authority to bring non-criminal law suits against individuals and companies that Hollywood and the recording industry believe are violating copyright law (Justice has long had the power to bring criminal actions). These lawsuits could be brought even if the copyright holder has sued the alleged violator for civil damages; meaning that your tax dollars could be used to punish the same person or company twice, with large media companies pocketing the proceeds.

Even the Justice Department has come out against the bill. In a letter to Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), the Justice Department said:

>We strongly oppose Title I of the bill, which not only authorizes the Attorney General to pursue civil remedies for copyright infringement, but to secure “restitution” damages and remit them to the private owners of infringed copyrights. First, 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….

Rumor has it that the bill may also pass the Senate this morning on oral unanimous consent.

UPDATE: And the Senate has passed the bill – somewhat modified.

Public Knowledge:

>“It is unfortunate that the Senate felt it necessary to pass this legislation. The bill only adds more imbalance to a copyright law that favors large media companies. At a time when the entire digital world is going to less restrictive distribution models, and when the courts are aghast at the outlandish damages being inflicted on consumers in copyright cases, this bill goes entirely in the wrong direction."

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