Yesterday, President Bush signed the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Properties Act into law. A new cabinet level position – essentially an intellectual property czar – assumes the responsibility of keeping the President informed regarding the protection of U.S. intellectual property…
Yesterday, President Bush signed the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Properties Act into law. A new cabinet level position – essentially an intellectual property czar – assumes the responsibility of keeping the President informed regarding the protection of U.S. intellectual property domestically and abroad. This czar will oversee and coordinate the efforts of all the government agencies currently fighting violations of IP rights; those are the Departments of Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, and State, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The new law has provisions to increase personnel, training and equipment for Department of Justice programs already in place to deal with IP infringement. Also increasing will be fines levied in criminal cases and statutory damages awarded in civil cases.
Though strongly supported by the RIAA, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and owners of multiple profitable copyrights such as NBC Universal, the act is not without its critics. Its detractors have called the law unnecessary, as copyright laws already in place give copyright owners all the legal backing they need to pursue infringers. The inclusion of a measure requiring forfeiture of devices used in piracy is upsetting to those who think the new measures will persecute the wrong people, meaning that innocent teenager would lose his homework computer because grandma used it to steal music. The Bush administration itself initially opposed the PRO-IP Act, wanting neither the creation of the czar position nor a provision that would have allowed the Justice Department to pursue civil litigation against copyright infringers. The latter, a contentious point for many, was cut from the bill before it passed.
According the the White House, the law “protects the work of American innovators, strengthens the rule of law, and will help keep American families safe.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates the value of U.S. intellectual properties to be over $5 trillion, and accounting for over half of our exports. It estimates annual losses from piracy to be approximately $250 billion, reiterating that the focus of the new programs is on large-scale – particularly international – counterfeiting operations. The appointment of the IP czar is not expected to happen before the end of President Bush’s term.