Congress considers DMCA expansion


— 2:25 AM on April 24, 2006

The Bush administration and "large copyright holders," including the Recording Industry Association of America, are pushing a new bill that promises to tighten the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. The DMCA already criminalizes the creation and distribution of technology used to circumvent copy protection methods, but this new draft legislation would instate even stricter measures to combat copyright infringement. According to CNET News.com, the bill not only criminalizes the simple act of attempting copyright infringement, but also contains the following provisions:

  • Permits wiretaps in investigations of copyright crimes, trade secret theft and economic espionage. It would establish a new copyright unit inside the FBI and budgets $20 million on topics including creating "advanced tools of forensic science to investigate" copyright crimes.
  • Amends existing law to permit criminal enforcement of copyright violations even if the work was not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
  • Boosts criminal penalties for copyright infringement originally created by the No Electronic Theft Act of 1997 from five years to 10 years (and 10 years to 20 years for subsequent offenses). The NET Act targets noncommercial piracy including posting copyrighted photos, videos or news articles on a Web site if the value exceeds $1,000.
  • Creates civil asset forfeiture penalties for anything used in copyright piracy. Computers or other equipment seized must be "destroyed" or otherwise disposed of, for instance at a government auction. Criminal asset forfeiture will be done following the rules established by federal drug laws.
  • Says copyright holders can impound "records documenting the manufacture, sale or receipt of items involved in" infringements.
In addition to being endorsed by the RIAA and other such organizations, the bill is also supported by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. In a speech promoting the legislation proposal last year, Gonzales stated that stricter legislation was necessary as "large-scale criminal enterprises" were now being encouraged to become involved in copyright infringement. Gonzales added that financial gain was used by said enterprises "quite frankly, to fund terrorism activities."
 
   
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