"The Bush administration has announced its strong opposition to a bill backed by the recording industry that would let federal prosecutors file civil lawsuits against peer-to-peer pirates.
In a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that amounts to a veto threat, the administration said it was "deeply concerned" that the proposal would divert resources from criminal prosecution to civil enforcement, and create "unnecessary bureaucracy." Currently prosecutors have authority to file criminal charges.The two-page letter said that copyright owners already have plenty of legal methods to target infringers, including seeking injunctions, impounding infringing materials, recovering actual damages plus statutory damages, and, in some cases, obtaining attorney's fees."
Update: From Democratic Senator, Ron Wyden, Senate Drops Civil Enforcement Provisions from Intellectual Property Act
"Washington, DC— The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today removed provisions from S.3325, the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008, that would have involved federal prosecutors in civil copyright cases. The provision was removed at the request of U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) who released the following statement:
“I am happy to announce that after substantial discussions Chairman Leahy and the Senate Judiciary Committee have agreed to remove provisions from S.3325 that would have resulted in a massive gift of scarce federal resources to Hollywood and the recording industry. I regret that the legislation still includes provisions that overzealous federal prosecutors could misconstrue to allow the seizure of important components of our Internet infrastructure. I will work with Senator Leahy to clarify these provisions in the future.
“I congratulate the committee on their strong efforts to improve enforcement of our anti-counterfeiting laws and hope those efforts will aid federal efforts to protect American producers and American jobs.
“The removal of Title 1 from the original version of S.3325 eliminates a grant of federal power that was not asked for, or desired by the Justice Department. It would have had the effect of turning our federal law enforcement personnel into collections agents for industries that are more than capable of taking care of themselves. The Justice Department has made clear that Title 1 would have resulted in the diversion of federal resources from important criminal actions into civil matters of questionable merit.
“Unleashing federal prosecutors on Internet communications and discourse would also have a chilling effect on both commercial activity and free expression. Both the individual desire to share ideas and creativity more broadly and the drive of business to expand their markets and reach new customers have been the engines behind the most dynamic and vital new industry in American history. This is why it is so important that unintended consequences not be allowed to tax, throttle, or otherwise inhibit those creative forces.
“With over 30,000 civil suits filed by a single entity against individual Americans it is clear that industry is more than able to enforce its intellectual property rights in civil courts without the contribution of taxpayer funds and busy federal prosecutors. I continue to urge the content industries to seek out distribution models that take into account, and profit from, the new technologies that have revolutionized the way Americans communicate, learn and share information."