Bill aims broadside against piracy

Dems want digital protection

Reps. Howard Berman and John Conyers, two of the top Dems on Capitol Hill, introduced anti-piracy legislation Wednesday aimed at beefing up federal copyright laws and their enforcement.

HR 2752 (aka the Author, Consumer and Computer Owner Protection and Security Act of 2003, or ACCOPS), addresses such diverse problems as camcording in a movie theater and uploading a copyrighted file to public file-sharing sites.

“Digital piracy is one of the biggest problems facing creators of copyrighted content,” said Michigan-based Conyers, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. “Even though the artists, authors, actors, movie companies, software developers, publishers and record studios create this country’s No. 1 export, they are suffering because people are taking advantage of technology to share and obtain their valuable content for free.”

The bill includes the following:

  • Gives law enforcement additional funds and mandating increased information sharing among domestic and international enforcement agencies.

  • Clarifies that uploading a single digital content file to a publicly accessible computer network qualifies as a felony under the copyright laws, since one file can be copied millions of times. The current standard specifies that there must be at least 10 downloads worth at least $2,500 to qualify as a felony.

  • Mandates that file-sharing Web sites get consent from consumers who download their software if the software takes over their computers either to search other computers for content or to store files.

  • Specifies that it is a federal offense to provide misleading contact information when registering a domain name with knowledge and with fraudulent intent; it also requires courts to consider this conduct as evidence of willful conduct in criminal copyright cases.

  • Preempts anti-camcording state laws in New York and Pennsylvania and makes camcording in a movie without authorization a federal misdemeanor.

“Authors, consumers and computer owners face a dizzying array of online threats to their livelihoods, privacy and security,” said Berman, ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Courts, Internet and Intellectual Property. “Law enforcement authorities need additional resources and statutory authority to effectively deal with this rash of online scams, crimes and illegalities.”

In a separate development in Sacramento, showbiz reps applauded the tabling of legislation in the Senate Judiciary committee that opponents said would have impeded copyright holders in pursuing civil cases against copyright violators. Assembly Bill 1143 was designed to require Internet services to notify customers of subpoenas seeking their identities and giving customers 30 days to file a legal challenge.

Vans Stevenson, senior VP of legislative affairs for the Motion Picture Assn. of America, said, “The committee clearly recognized that there is no First Amendment right to engage in illegal activities and hide.”

SAG and the DGA also opposed the bill.

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