10.01.2008 0

I Wonder if my First Sentence Violates the Got Milk? Campaigns Trademark

  • On: 10/08/2008 12:07:13
  • In: Property Rights
  • Got illegal music on your computer? You may want to start deleting those files now. By an overwhelming margin of 410-11, the U.S. House passed H.R. 4279, a measure which would allow the federal government to seize property containing materials that violate intellectual property laws – even property “intended” for infringement use – if you are a “violator.”

    In fact, the only bright side is that the government must prove a “substantial connection” – a vague term left undefined – between the property to be seized and the infringement.

    Yet even the establishment of “connection” may not enough; the way the government goes about in its efforts to confiscate property raises some potential 4th Amendment issues. Constitutionally, the government cannot seize property without a warrant, except in cases of emergency. Would government officials attempt to search private property for illegally obtained materials without a warrant?

    Not only does this bill potentially give the government far too much power in seizing property, it requires the Justice Department to set up a new office, the Intellectual Property Enforcement Division, which will help oversee and coordinate the enforcement of intellectual property laws. The organization will be headed by the Intellectual Property Enforcement Officer, who would work with the Justice Department, and other US agencies to fight intellectual property theft. The details of how the office will be able to track down the violators have yet to be seen.

    The bill even goes so far as to order the stationing of U.S. officials abroad to help other nations combat infringement on U.S. products. The “Intellectual Property Attaches” will be responsible for helping the host nation crack down on infringement, help educate the host nation’s populace about intellectual protection issues, and work with U.S. copyright protection officials to promote American intellectual interests.

    When the bill was introduced late 2007, William Patry, Senior Copyright Counsel for Google Inc., commented on his private blog that intellectual property watchdogs already possess the ability to exact penalties worth far more than the actual infraction itself.

    Case in point: Last year, a 23-year-old Maine resident was sued $3750 for 5 songs that he had once downloaded and shared. With the cost of a song $0.99 on iTunes, this young man would have had to distribute a grand total of 3787 illegal copies of these songs in order to owe such a large penalty. Clearly, the penalties are already tough enough; increasing them is pointless.

    Still listening to that illegally downloaded music? Don’t get too attached to it; you may end up erasing it before long.

    ALG CTA: ALG News urges concerned journalists to insist their readers contact their Senators and pressure them to oppose this bill. They can find their senator’s contact information on the Senate website, or they can call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for their senator’s office. Also, the President should be urged to veto the bill; the White House comment line is (202) 456-1111 and the email address is comments@whitehouse.gov.

    Not only does this bill have the potential to contravene the Constitution, but it creates yet more redundant and ineffective bureaucracy. The private industries who cry foul over copyright violations already have the means to legally flush out these copyright violators without the federal government’s help. These industries can far outspend any violators they catch. They do not need taxpayers to flush out additional funds for government agencies to “support” them.

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