New Law Strengthens IP Protection

Posted on 10/14/2008 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

On Monday, the President of the United States of America signed several bills into law. Among them was S. 3325, Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO IP) Act of 2008, which amends civil and criminal IP laws, establishes a new executive-level coordinator position and authorizes Justice Department grants to assist in combating IP theft and infringement.

According to the Institute for Policy Innovation, a Texas-based think-tank, the U.S. employs over 11 million people in copyright-related jobs but loses nearly 400,000 jobs each year to piracy and counterfeiting. Global economics firm LECG calculated that cutting piracy and counterfeiting losses by 5% to 10% would create 174,000 new jobs per year after the first three years. It would also increase U.S. economic output by $27 billion and generate $1.4 billion in new federal tax revenue.

The PRO IP Act endeavors to strengthen both civil and criminal remedies for infringement.


The PRO IP Act expands the previous definition of “computer crime” to specifically include infringement of copyrighted works over the Internet. It also introduces a new harmless error exception, which protects the copyright owner by accepting a certificate of registration as sufficient proof of ownership even with inaccurate information, unless the erroneous information was fraudulently supplied or the correct information would cause a refusal of registration.

In addition, civil remedies for impounding of infringing items now include related documentation, such as records on the manufacture, sale or receipt of infringing goods. Allowances for profits and statutory-damage awards have also been raised.

On the criminal side, local law-enforcement will receive new grants, an annual budget of $25 million for the next five years, and improved investigative and forensic resources and funding.

A new position has been created to manage the government’s increased focus on combating piracy and counterfeiting activities. The President will appoint an IP enforcement coordinator to the Executive Office of the President. The coordinator will chair a new interagency advisory committee and oversee relevant planning, policy-development and reporting work.


David Sohn, senior policy counsel at the Washington, D.C., Center for Democracy and Technology—which aims to keep the Internet open, innovative and free—expressed reservations about the new position: “It remains to be seen to what extent this new official will be sensitive to the need for appropriate balance in copyright policy. … Overbroad enforcement could chill legitimate expression and innovation.”

The law as a whole has also received criticism from other citizen and corporate lobbying groups that advocate open access.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association feels PRO IP puts undue pressure on taxpayers to support government activities that should be funded by the content industry. “This legislation would involve the government more deeply in what are often complicated disputes between industry and consumers. The DOJ’s resources are needed to fight the more serious problems including, crime, terrorism and antitrust abuses,” said CCIA president Ed Black.

Public Knowledge, a public interest group working to defend citizens’ rights in the digital culture, also laments the passing of PRO IP. “The bill only adds more imbalance to a copyright law that favors large media companies … at a time when the entire digital world is going to less restrictive distribution models,” said the group’s president and co-founder Gigi Sohn.

In contrast, content producers and lawmakers are near unanimous in their support. The PRO IP Act was passed unanimously in the Senate and with over 400 votes in the House of Representatives.

The Copyright Alliance—which represents over 11 million creators, artists, photographers, businesses, unions and special-interest groups—is among this bill’s supporters. The Alliance unites business and media giants, such as Microsoft, Reed Elsevier, Time Warner and Viacom, with advocacy and membership-based groups, including the American Society of Media Photographers, the Picture Archive Council of America, Professional Photographers of America and the Graphic Artists Guild.

Patrick Ross, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, said: “Congress is being asked to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in failing Wall Street firms, but artists don’t want handouts. They just ask that existing copyright laws are enforced so they can continue to produce creative works with the hope of earning a living wage while doing so.”

Tim Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, described PRO IP as a win for America’s innovators, workers whose jobs rely on intellectual property and consumers who depend on safe and effective products.

Copyright © 2008 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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