Sunday, June 27, 2004

PIRATE Act one step closer to passage, may be passed within a week

On Friday the Senate passed the PIRATE Act, using a speedy method for passage usually reserved from noncontroversial bills. The House still must vote on the PIRATE Act in order for it to become law. The Senate Judiciary Committee is responsible for coming up with these laws.

Congress is attempting to pass the PIRATE Act in a quick and stealthy fashion, similar to how the the Judiciary Committee is attempting to get the INDUCE Act passed. These are both very controversial bills and not a single hearing has been held for either of them. A reason, one suspects, is because the senior members of the Judiciary committe get lots of donations from the entertainment industry: so far in 2004, Patrick Leahy has received $178,000 in campaign contributions from the entertainment industries, that's the second-biggest source of donations to Leahy behind lawyers. Orrin Hatch has received $152,360. These guys have definatly gone out for drinks with Jack Valenti after work.

To actually debate these bills would bring to light the Bill's many problems. The RIAA and MPAA just want them passed, and quickly, before any press and critics get a say.

Foes of the Pirate Act have been alarmed by the unusual alacrity of the proposal's legislative progress. It was introduced just two months ago, on March 25, and not one hearing was held before the Judiciary committee forwarded it to the full Senate for a vote a month later.

For instance, the main change the PIRATE Act will make to US law is that it will allow the Gov't to go after file sharers in a similar fashion to the way the RIAA has been suing them by the hundreds, in civil suits. Typically the Gov't, when going after criminals, file criminal charges against them. Obviously their priorities are other than to prosecute teenage file sharers, considering the concern with such other criminal acts as murder, rape, terrorism, etc. Believe it or not, the Justice Dept does have limited (taxpayer) resources and must pick it's priorities.

The Pirate Act represents the latest legislative priority for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and its allies, who collectively argue that dramatic action is necessary to prevent file-swapping networks from continuing to blossom in popularity.

They don't want any hearings because there would be some difficule and embarrassing questions:

"I can't imagine that (Hollywood lobbyist) Jack Valenti or (RIAA chairman) Mitch Bainwol really wants to come before Congress and give testimony saying, 'We can't afford to bring these lawsuits. That's why we want the taxpayer to pay for them.' I can't believe they want to do that in public."

Bonus for the entertainment industry, they get to use wiretaps now!

[T]he Justice Department likely would be able to seek wiretaps to collect evidence about P2P infringement. Current wiretap law says electronic communications may be intercepted when a potential federal felony is being investigated.

A basic problem with the PIRATE Act is that it forces the Justice Dept. to do the RIAAs job for it, using taxpayer money. Should the Justice Dept spend a couple million bucks next year suing file sharers? Sounds like a waste to me when the RIAA is doing a fine job already. Also, if the INDUCE Act passes there will be no need to sue file sharers anyway, because there will no longer be any P2P networks or iPods around.

"It represents yet another point in another very long line of major corporate copyright interests pushing for and receiving what amounts to significant corporate welfare," said Adam Eisgrau, a lobbyist for the P2P United trade association. "This legislation literally offloads the cost of enforcing copyrights traditionally borne by the copyright holder onto the federal government and therefore the taxpayers."

Article at c|net, more at Wired, arstechnica, EFF, The Importance Of..., infoworld, and zdNet. Go ahead and try to find an article that casts this bill in a positive light, I dare you (and no press releases from the RIAA, etc.).


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