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Making The Justice Dept. A Copyright Busybody 381

poptones writes "The Senate Judiciary committee has just approved four new bills relating to IP law in the U.S. A couple of them provide some much needed reforms for the patent process including raising fees, raising fees more for those who most use the system, and providing discounts for small entities (who'da thunk?)" According to poptones, "Unfortunately, all is not good" -- read on below to see how the RIAA and MPAA stand to gain from one of these bills in particular.

This bill, put forward by your friends and mine, Msrs. Leahy and Hatch, would task the JD with filing civil actions against "pirates" - essentially putting your tax dollars to work bringing civil actions against college students in the name of the very largest Copyright holders, allowing them even more spare pocket change to spend lobbying to restrict your already shrinking online freedoms. A choice snippet from the floor: "For too long, Federal prosecutors have been hindered in their pursuit of pirates, by the fact that they were limited to bringing criminal charges with high burdens of proof..."

And it gets better: "In the long run, I believe that we must find better mechanisms to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens--our children--are not being constantly tempted to infringe the copyrights that have made America a world leader in the production of creative works." Hold on to your wallets folks, they're telling us to "think of the children" again..."

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Making The Justice Dept. A Copyright Busybody

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:39PM (#9035543)
    The more you make off your copyright and the more protection need, the more you should pay. You create a level below a certain point where you're not taxed (say... $10,000), and then after that, you pay. You could also tie it to length, so a longer copyright would cost more than a new one.
    • by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:52PM (#9035614) Journal
      The more you make off your copyright and the more protection need, the more you should pay.

      I was thinking the exact same thing, only it should not only be tied to the asset valuation, but to time as well. For example, for the first 5 years of a copyright, you don't get taxed - after that, you get assessed an "Intellectual Property Tax".

      The problem with the idea is that asset taxes are inherently evil - so evil that I'm not sure that I'd want to create a new bureaucracy to handle the assessment, levying, and paperwork. It's bad enough we have property taxes (and for very unlucky folks), business asset taxes (ie, I buy a computer, pay a sales tax, and for the next 5 years, I have to pay 3% of the remaining value on the computer to the local county). Can you imagine some auditor going into the library of congress, and sending off letters to authors, playwrights, etc., arguing that their work is worth $X, even though it's been out of print for years, and that they owe back taxes?

      On the other hand, if we can't get a limitation to copyright duration, then we should be taxing the hell out of it, so at least SOME public good comes out of it.

      When copyright and IP laws are torn all to hell, blame the MPAA and the RIAA for trying to push the envelope and just not being smart enough to leave things alone (just as traditional junk mailers and call centers can blame spammers and telemarketers for the woes that have befallen them as a result of super-sensitizing people to ad-interruptions.)

      • I have to pay 3% of the remaining value on the computer to the local county

        Good God, where do you live, Soviet Russia?


        People around here are damned near ready to go to war over 0.095% per year.

      • by sir_cello ( 634395 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:52PM (#9035972)

        What a load of garbage: you want to tax people for merely having copyrighted works? Not only would be virtually impossible to implement, but would create a huge disincentive to create copyright works (I'd stop writing informal papers, people would stop creating open source software - all for fear that the tax department levy bills on them).

        As it stands, (a) if you make money out of the works you have to pay tax anyway, and (b) if you are a business, the accounting rules are increasingly requiring that valuable intangibles are accounted for as assets anyway.

      • Forget the back taxes, have it so people who fail to pay the tax waiver their copyrights. If they want to retain copyrights, then they have to pay.

        That way, we don't create tax criminals, and Apple II software from 1978, that wasn't making money for anyone anyway, is public domain.

        Simple, doesn't rob anyone of the ability to make money, fair, maybe even elegant. So you know there is no chance in hell of it ever becoming a law.
        • Really stupid idea. - Think of GPL'ed software.
          • Really stupid idea. - Think of GPL'ed software.

            This is only a good point if the law is implemented poorly. The original poster suggested that the fee should be tied to the revenue generated by the IP. This is a great option, and would solve any problems for GPL'd software. As suggested, the first term would be free, then there would be a sliding scale based on revenue. Freely distributed media (software, books, whatever), since it doesn't generate revenue, would not have a renewal fee, but would require
      • Actually, all property taxes are bad. Thanks to them, I can't just move out and live a recluse life on some farm all by myself; the state decides it wants to get in my face about oweing it taxes when I just want to subsist farm, mabye sell some crops to buy a couple things here and there and be left well enough alone. It's kinda sad really.

        In any case, copyright right now is indeed forever, so any improvement over that is good. What was happening is that patents and copyrights were being given out pre
    • by kalidasa ( 577403 ) * on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:54PM (#9035634) Journal
      Bad idea. Disney would just buy a 10,000,000 year copyright on everything they could get their hands on.
      • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:58PM (#9035656) Journal
        Bad idea. Disney would just buy a 10,000,000 year copyright on everything they could get their hands on.

        I liked this idea, and of course the costs should be set so it isn't economically possible to buy a copyright for 10 million years. :-)
      • by j1m+5n0w ( 749199 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:24PM (#9035792) Homepage Journal

        What if it was a monotonically increasing percentage of revenue? Like a sales tax, but it gets more each decade. For instance:

        • first 10 years: free
        • next 10 years: 10% of revenue
        • next 10 years: 20% of revenue
        • ???
        • Profit! Err, I mean, Enter Public Domain!

        This way, if Disney is still making substantial revenue from an old work, they pay a proportionally high fee.

        There should probably also be an exponentially increasing minimum "copyright maintenance" fee, to create an incentive to put works that generate no revenue into the public domain.

        It seems reasonable to me that lengthy copyright protection should be a paid service. Copyright seems like a system of getting something for nothing (which isn't always a bad thing, but current copyright laws have become ridiculous).


      • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @07:09PM (#9036467)
        "Disney would just buy a 10,000,000 year copyright on everything they could get their hands on."

        Don't they already effectively have that as it is?
    • "The more you make off your copyright and the more protection need, the more you should pay."

      OR, the more you consume copyrighted works, the more you should pay, no?

  • by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:39PM (#9035544) Journal
    Wow, outsourcing legal work to the goernment, and you don't even need to pay them! Man, is that a racket or what? Up until now, you actually had to be elected to treat taxpayers as your own piggy-bank, thanks to the RIAA and the MPAA, copyright holders (with influence) can now get paid by the american people for... suing the american people!
  • by MistaE ( 776169 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:41PM (#9035556) Homepage
    Now hold up here, are you saying that the taxes that are taken out of my summer job are gonna go towards prosecuting my friends that are stealing music during the school year?? Well... can I at least choose who gets axe then?
    • Re:Wait a minute.... (Score:4, Informative)

      by turnstyle ( 588788 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:05PM (#9035701) Homepage
      It's kinda funny -- when the RIAA wants a tax to pay off the RIAA, it's a BAD thing. When the EFF wants a tax to pay off the RIAA [], it's a GOOD thing.
      • Re:Wait a minute.... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rben ( 542324 )

        Actually the EFF has a pretty good idea. Since I don't download music, I wouldn't have to pay. With this RIAA proposal, they wouldn't even have to sue people anymore, now, the suits would be instigated by the DoJ using my tax money. I'd have to pay for the lawsuits against kids.

        I doubt the EFF idea will be adopted since it's so sensible and the RIAA won't stop until they can charge everyone three dollars for every song they ever listen too.

        The behavior of the members of the RIAA has been exactly th

  • by PurifyYourMind ( 776223 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:41PM (#9035559) Homepage
    I suppose it's nice that the fees are reduced for smaller entities. But can individuals or small organizations actually enforce copyright online? I mean, most people don't have the resources to fund drawn out or chronic lawsuits. Is a cease-and-desist letter powerful enough?
    • The small entity reduction is for patent fees, and is nothing new. Small entity fees have been half the normal filing fee for quite some time. As for small organizations enforcing their copyrights, that's a good question. Certainly, none of use has the resources that the RIAA does to bring 2500+ lawsuits (without and significant progress on any of them) but, at least for violations hosted by reputable ISPs section 512 [] should provide some ammo.
    • "But can individuals or small organizations actually enforce copyright online?"

      Often a letter (even a friendly one) can help.

      Also, note that federally registered copyrights award legal fees (as opposed to 'defacto' copyrights).

  • by ShatteredDream ( 636520 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:46PM (#9035589) Homepage
    Getting a bigger, more productive Patent Office which thousands of new analysts who know their stuff would do a lot to fixing some of the problems in the economy. By putting many people on the payroll who know what bad patents are, the government can ethically protect businesses from the real pirates: the ones who use IP law to control the productive capabilities of American industry.

    Reform should not stop here though. The Bush Administration should make it a priority to strip the FDA of most of its discressionary powers to block drugs it thinks "don't do enough" and to give it more resources to expedite the processing of drug safety tests so that drug companies can profit more easily (thus they don't have to charge as much).
  • by Goeland86 ( 741690 ) <goeland86 @ g m a i> on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:47PM (#9035595) Homepage
    Wait, wouldn't that same bill also allow the Attorney General to prosecute people infringing the GPL? If we use the open licenses more and more, it serves us in the end, no? Or does it apply only to copyrights made with the copyright office? I think this could be indeed a useful law in the future, if used by us GPL lovers. What do you think?
    • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:22PM (#9035780) Homepage
      I think this could be indeed a useful law in the future, if used by us GPL lovers. What do you think?

      First a clarification: This potential law is about civil law enforcement by the government.

      And for the opinion, since you asked: The government should never under any circumstances take a side in a civil dispute. The entire concept of the distinction between civil and criminal disputes is that in civil law, person A is 51% right and person B is 49% right, and noone knows before the end of the case which side is which. This is referred to as "preponderance of evidence". Given that, which side should the government be backing in a given civil dispute? Neither.

      Criminal law is the sole domain of government law enforcement.
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:48PM (#9035600)
    Now tell me, really, does anybody truly believe that copyright reform could happen without throwing a few bones -- if not the whole T-Rex -- to the **AA lobby?

    This is /., not Fantasyland.

    [Fantasyland is believed to be a registered trademark of the Walt Disney Corporation. It is used here without permission, but concurrent with the United States Supreme Court decision regarding Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc (1994) [] and the copyright laws of the United States protecting parody and satire.]

  • by ShatteredDream ( 636520 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:49PM (#9035602) Homepage
    Cuban security director: "ma'am, Cuba loves its children."

    Woman: "Cuba only loves its children until they grow up."
  • by pben ( 22734 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:52PM (#9035621)
    I always thought the deal was the government give a monopoly to a creator in exchange for the creator doing the enforcement of the monopoly. Now government is extending the term (already done) and proposing to take on the role of enforcement also. What is government getting in return for taking on this extra burden? A small increase in filing fees and nothing else? If government is becoming a larger partner in IP enforcement shouldn't they get a larger cut of the IP profits? Somehow I don't think that the Hollywood accounting that goes on in IP companies will ever give government a larger cut.

    I always found it odd that this post gets protection of my live time plus seventy years but a new drug only gets seventeen years plus a few extra months the lawyers cheat out of the system at the end of the seventeen years. If something that reduces suffering is only worth 17 years maybe the founding fathers were right to put the copyright term at 28 years.

    • Not at all... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @06:02PM (#9036034) Homepage
      I always thought the deal was the government give a monopoly to a creator in exchange for the creator doing the enforcement of the monopoly.

      "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

      The deal is that they get the monopoly for the act of creating their works and inventions. There's never been any "principal" decision of who is to enforce it, as far as I know. Certainly, by their right to secure the monopoly, making the government enforce it is fully constitutional.

      I think the government should step back and look at what the goal is: To promote the creation of new works and inventions. The expectancy to make money is a driving factor. But if I write a book today, do I expect money in 2150? (which would hopefully be life + 70 for me) No.

      Ask any movie producer, book author, music artist when they expect to make money off their work. Sure, sometimes a book like LotR can become massively long after it was written, but did JRR Tolkien make it because it'd be a wildly movie triology in the next millenium? Hell no.

      There's two kinds of copyright. One that promotes the creation of new works, and one that promotes the hoarding of existing IP because some works will become "classics". The latter is a cancer that only contributes to making artificial profit, not to advance science nor the arts.

      That is why copyright should be cut, massively. A few decades should be more than enough to put it through any normal life cycle (like e.g. cinema -> rental -> dvd sales -> premium channels -> normal channels -> reruns).

      What is a concern, is the "pollution" of the setting, like e.g. the Star Trek universe. However, make it real simple. Only what is expired from copyright is expired. E.g. if TOS didn't contain the Borg, but Voyager does, they are copyrighted as long as Voyager.

      But if you want to take Capt. Kirk on adventures to meet some completely new and unknown aliens, you're free to do that. If the "original" can't introduce enough new things (new characters, new plots, new items) to live with that during say, 30 years?, well they don't deserve it.

  • by phunster ( 701222 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:53PM (#9035624)
    In the beginning the recording industry ripped off poor (especially black) artists. The film industry moved west in order to avoid payment for their use of patented technology. These two industries are the original pirates, that's why they are so frightened of modern day pirates.

    It is only natural that they feed like pigs at the trough that contains the tax receipts. Industries built on theft don't stop doing it once they become "successful", they do more of it and on a much grander scale.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:53PM (#9035625)
    Legislation is in the works to ban the key combinations known as "Ctrl+C" and "Ctrl+V".
  • are so high in price that only large organizations can afford to apply for them.

    I have had many ideas I could not patent, trademark, or copyright because I could not afford to. Plus their database is hard to search, one of them is still in telnet form! When will these databases get into the 21st century?

    My former employer said they made 40 patients based on my ideas. I tried to search on the employer's name, but that is not an available option. I searched on my name, which came up with nothing. So obviously they registered the patents in someone else's name as the inventor. Which I later found is not valid to do, as I am the inventor of those ideas.

    Give a discount to people based on income level for the fees. For Pete's sake they can gather the info from the IRS for people and the SEC for companies. Also have an idea tax that taxes a small fee for revenue used for the ideas, so the government can collect some money as well.
    • Their search engine (at least for patents, not sure about trademarks) is actually very powerful. Assigne and inventor searches are both readily availible online and quite simple to use if you know what you are doing. For example:

      Asignee Search = an\[assigne name here]
      Inventor Search = in\[inventor name here]
  • Seems to me that Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is not likely to get one whole lot of cooperation from a Republican-controlled Senate, House, and/or White House. Even if they like the idea -- A Lot -- they're still not going to let him have credit for it.

    And I wouldn't expect Vermont's other Senator, Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), to have many friends in the majority party either.

    Remember this next time you're chanting, "Anybody But Bush!"

    • Remember this next time you're chanting, "Anybody But Bush!"

      It's an interesting point....however, when your house is burning down, you don't start fixing the leaky faucet or the peeling paint or the creaky floorboards. You put out the fire.

  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @04:55PM (#9035642) Homepage Journal that don't have such legal complexity overhead and consumer at risk issues?

    i.e. free software...

    the more complexity that is built up, the sooner the ever advancing world will move forward beyond such getting in the way complexity.

    a simple matter of the ever increasing velocity of reaching new things for us all to benefit from and/or enjoy.

    G) the role of the victim copyright owner in providing relevant information for enforcement actions and in the computation of damages;

    Not only do we have to pay for the investigations and lawsuits, we have to pay to train people to do them. Furthermore, there seems to be limited legislation setting or limiting the amounts in such suits and that the copyright holder may have the power to decide on amounts. It seems that now some of th

  • Children who will never be able to hear Leadbelly playing because someone forgot to convert it from an obsolete format, and now nobody can listen to it with modern equipment.

    I realize that artists need some sort of protection, but it's really the entrenched ones who worry about this. A friend of mine is a freelance composer of original music for software, radio, TV and film productions [], and he's got samples of his work on his site that he's just giving away. Of course, they are copyrighted and if you wa

  • What rips my jocks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarrylKegger ( 766904 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:02PM (#9035684)
    about the view that people who make illegal copies should be punished(and usually it's advocated that it should be severe punishment) is that it is simply against the law and therefore WRONG! If anything, law-breaking on a large scale should be an indicator that the law needs to be changed.
  • Such a shame.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MancDiceman ( 776332 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:03PM (#9035689)
    People don't realise that it does indeed cost money to produce creative works, and those people who invested in them have a right to protect them. If it costs you $100 million to create a feature film, what incentive is there for you as an investor, a studio, whoever, to put that money in if within a week of the final edit being finished it is distributed to your entire audience for free?

    Somebody else here has already pointed out that "open music" is about you going out, playing an instrument, singing, writing lyrics and tunes, putting it all together and distributing it under the terms you want.

    The "file-sharing" model is to open enterprise what warezing Win XP is to downloading your favourite Linux distro.

    So, instead of trying to take other people's music and distributing it without their permission, how about you actually try and create music people want and give it away under terms like the GPL, much in the same way you do with software now?

    No? Why not? No, seriously, I want to know why not...
    • by payndz ( 589033 )
      People don't realise that it does indeed cost money to produce creative works, and those people who invested in them have a right to protect them. If it costs you $100 million to create a feature film, what incentive is there for you as an investor, a studio, whoever, to put that money in if within a week of the final edit being finished it is distributed to your entire audience for free?

      I've never bought a pirated DVD in my life. Nor have I ever downloaded a movie from the internet, P2P or whatever.


  • Some questions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Orion Blastar ( 457579 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {ratsalbnoiro}> on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:05PM (#9035704) Homepage Journal
    #1 What is the definition of Piracy? Is it making illegal copies and then selling them, or is it just making illegal copies? What about copies for backup purposes or that fall under "Fair Use"?

    #2 Most other crimes carry the "burden of proof" on the prosecutor. Why is this one different? Hey there, John Doe is using Kazaa, even though we found no MP3 files on his hard drive besides the ones he bought or has a right too, the fact that he has Kazaa shows that he "Might" be sharing said files with others. We have no evidence of the sharing, but the fact that he uses Kazaa is enough for us to brand him a pirate! Slap an eyepatch and peg-leg on him and send him to jail!

    #3 So what pirates are they targeting? While a majority of the pirated copies come from other countries such as China, Russia, etc, we have no legal power over there, so instead we shall target teenagers and college students who don't know any better and only want to share songs with friends, etc. "Sc*w fair use, we got the copyright laws rewritten to exclude it. Jane Doe is using part of a Metallica song in a college presentation, so we will lock her up and throw away the key!

    #4 How much money earned is enough? Oh sure we make a ton of money selling $20USD CDs that cost us 50 cents to make and ship, and only give $2USD to the artists, but we could be making more if the John Does and Jane Does of the world stop using our songs without permission and sharing them, while they are promoting our songs and possibly generating more sales, we have a potential to earn even more income by suing these individuals.
  • Why civil suits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by smiff ( 578693 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:09PM (#9035717)
    "For too long, Federal prosecutors have been hindered in their pursuit of pirates, by the fact that they were limited to bringing criminal charges with high burdens of proof..."

    In a criminal case, the government must prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt". In a civil suit, they must only prove the preponderance of the evidence.

    In a criminal case, if the defendant is acquited, the goverment must return the defendant's belongings. In a civil case, the government can seize a person's belongings and the defendant must prove his innocence to get them back.

    The most significant difference is that in a criminal case, if the defendant can not afford an attorney, the government must provide one. In a civil case, the defendant is left to fend for himself.

    • One more note:

      The government rarely brings civil cases. Criminal cases are "The People vs. XXXX", as the people are the ones who were harmed, and are always brought by the government.

      Civil cases are always "XXX vs. YYY", and are always brought by individuals (legally, corporations are individuals, which is why I don't need to qualify that statement). The government does not bring civil suits, for the most part, except when the harm was done to them.
  • by Kaemaril ( 266849 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:25PM (#9035800)

    "In the long run, I believe that we must find better mechanisms to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens--our children--are not being constantly tempted to infringe the copyrights..."

    Yes, and the best way to make sure little Billy doesn't become a mean ol' evil pirate is to have the DOJ prosecute his ass the moment he downloads Barney's latest hit ... :)

    (Not that people who listen to Barney's latest hit shouldn't be prosecuted, obviously ... but for different reasons, damnit!)

  • by cfulmer ( 3166 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:30PM (#9035827) Homepage Journal
    So, recognize that I've only had one semester of constitutional law, but....

    Article III Section 2 of the US Constitution says that the judicial power applies to "cases" and "Controversies." Under current constitutional doctrine, this means that in order to get into federal courts on a civil matter, there is a requirement that the person bringing the suit have standing: He has to have an injury which can be remedied by the court.

    I don't think that the Justice Department would have standing because it neither (1) has been injured nor (2) is an organization litigating the rights of its members, who have been injured -- this is about what happens when the RIAA sues people.

    IANAL (yet...), so don't consider this legal advice. But, the whole thing just seems a bit fishy.
    • Standing is given to the Department of Justice via the statute proposed by Senators Hatch and Leahy. Article III, Section 2 of the US Constitution would appy if the DOJ tried to take civil action against pirates without this statute in place.
  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:32PM (#9035833) Homepage
    "For too long, Federal prosecutors have been hindered in their pursuit of pirates, by the fact that they were limited to bringing criminal charges with high burdens of proof..."

    Everyone here is talking about whether piracy is right or wrong. Duh. It's wrong. That's not the point.

    This law would give the government the authority to punish people based on a preponderance of evidence. There has always been a distinction between civil and criminal law. When there is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but two people are still in dispute, the government is not allowed to get involved, because they tip the balance too much. If there is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, how is the government supposed to decide which side to support? This law is saying in effect, "whenever we're not sure if someone has been wronged or not, the government should back party A." It is completely antithetical to the distinction beetween civil and criminal law.
  • by mwooldri ( 696068 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:32PM (#9035834)
    I presume here that we're treating copyright (and other similar intellectual property) the same as tangible artifacts.

    Let's say that someone breaks into my home, and steals my TV. Right now, I can enlist the help of law enforcement, who might catch the person responsible for the theft. If they do, provided I want to pursue this, they could then go ahead and prosecute the thief, and if found guilty would then serve a punishment. I might not get my TV back, but the person who stole it did not 'get a free lunch'.

    The same principle seems to be applied here to copyrights. The thing I need to understand, is the theft of a copyright a civil matter, or a criminal matter? If it is a civil matter, then the DoJ certainly does not need to get involved, they have enough to do in the criminal arena. Let the RIAA, the MPAA and all their cronies fund their own lawsuits, just like everyone else who has to fund a civil lawsuit. But if the theft of a copyright is now a criminal matter, and is to be considered a felony, then I see no reason why the person who has a precious artifact stolen has recourse to the police and the DoJ whereas someone who stole a copyright does not have access to these resources - especially if the consequences for the person who stole the artifact is the same for those who stole the copyright.

    I personally don't care too much for the RIAA and MPAA's strong-arm tactics, but copyright certainly needs reform. Perhaps there needs to be a two tier copyright system, there would be Copyright I and Copyright II. I would envisage Copyright I to be like existing copyright. It would expire 90 years after the death of the creator, and the Copyright I holders would have recourse to the civil courts for enforcing their rights. It would be cheap to get, but expensive to enforce. There would also be Copyright II. Copyright II would be more expensive to maintain, and as someone mentioned earlier, yes there would be a 'tax', maybe a yearly tax. The Copyright would be tradeable, and would be in force as long as the 'tax' is paid on it (so the likes of Mickey Mouse would be protected forever). Copyright II would however, because of the increased fees that Copyright II holders would pay, would have recourse to law enforcement and the Department of Justice in order to enforce those copyrights, and theft of the copyrights would enjoy penalties like that in criminal theft cases.

    That would be my simplistic way of reforming the copyright system.


  • by sir_cello ( 634395 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @05:59PM (#9036020)

    Well, the figures I've seen from customs activities border enforcement show that detected counterfeit computer software and music and related multimedia have increased 400% in the last couple of years, and piracy rates in this area are 40%.

    When you have _actual evidence_ of this level of lost income, which for the government translates into lost taxes, then you understand why the government is stepping in and helping.

    I'm sure if the figures were much lower, the government couldn't care less.

  • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @06:07PM (#9036063) Homepage
    Dear Mr. [me]:

    Thank you for contacting me about intellectual property protections. Although we disagree on this issue, it is good to
    hear from you.

    Throughout my career, I have been concerned about the theft of intellectual property and the effect it has on
    innovation. Protection of digital content is just one aspect of this effort. On March 23, 2004, the Senate Judiciary
    Committee held a hearing on physical piracy, entitled "Counterfeiting and Theft of Tangible Intellectual Property:
    Challenges and Solutions," at which the Committee examined the harmful effects of stealing another's creation.
    Reasonable estimates show that the U.S. economy loses between $200 billion and $250 billion annually to piracy and
    counterfeiting. At that hearing the Committee heard from a representative of Burton Snowboards, which employs 350
    people in Vermont. That witness reported that knock-off Burton products have been found in multiple countries, and
    fake goods often turn up on internet auction sites.

    The improper use of Burton's trademarks is illegal, it is unethical, and it robs the company of revenues it should
    rightfully reap but that others siphon off. In the 104th Congress, I introduced the Anticounterfeiting Consumer
    Protection Act of 1995, which gave law enforcement additional tools to fight counterfeiting and which became a public
    law. I am currently looking at additional legislation that would help hard working Vermonters protect the goods they

    Likewise, downloading music without paying for it, and without the copyright holder's permission prevents artists,
    authors, musicians - and those that work behind the scenes to produce creative content - from realizing the benefits
    they deserve.. In order for the promise of new technologies to be fully realized, high quality digital content needs
    to be easy to use and portable, and I am glad to see that several companies are now offering legal alternatives that
    are meeting with success. This is a development I continue to encourage.

    While illegally downloading music is wrong, I do not think that handcuffs for copyright infringers should be the
    government's only option. That is why, on March 25, 2004, I introduced the "Protecting Intellectual Rights Against
    Theft and Expropriation (PIRATE) Act." I do not believe in a "one size fits all" system of justice, and the PIRATE Act
    will provide needed flexibility by allowing the Justice Department to pursue civil penalties for copyright infringement
    when criminal penalties are not appropriate.

    Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue, and please keep in touch.

    Patrick Leahy
    United States Senator /

    Since counterfeit snowboards seemed totally off the wall to me, here was my reply:

    Dear Senator Leahy:

    Thank you for your response. It does not, however, show consideration of
    many of the most pressing issues in "intellectual property." Please detail
    what you are doing to:

    - Roll back copyright terms to the reasonable period envisioned by the
    writers of the Constitution

    - Allow Web "radio" to have the same rights to broadcast music as
    over-the-air stations, without the additional fees for using the music
    which are currently assessed, which only serve to enforce the broadcast
    monopolies while restricting artist access to the public

    - Preserve the "fair use" rights that have long been in copyright law
    against the large corporations working to remove or negate them through
    using encryption technologies

    - Undo the chilling effects of the DCMA on free technological development,
    where it prevents normal testing and reverse-engineering of encryption

    - Restore restrictions on the number of radio or television stations that
    may be owned by any single corporation (surely you are aware of the
    political disaster that results f
  • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @06:25PM (#9036163) Homepage
    Eisner's family owns a large estate in SE Vermont for many years.

    So, see how [] Eisner [] has rewarded Leahy [] for his work on the Mickey Mouse copyright extension [] and other acts of kindness.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 02, 2004 @06:40PM (#9036239)
    As a writer and publisher, I certainly appreciate copyright law, but I have read S 2237IS and I find it scary, stupid and grossly unfair.

    It's scary because it provides the federal government with a very effective way to crush political free speech. Why? First, keep in mind that, unlike many countries, including some other democracies, we do not and cannot have seditious libel laws--meaning the government cannot openly ban criticism. For that, we can thank the First Amendment and our culture of independence.

    But recall that any effective criticism of the actions of government agencies and politicians will require fair use quotations. Under current law, the government cannot use copyright to attack that sort of unwanted speech. Copyright infringement lawsuits are civil lawsuits, initiated and (even more important) funded by private entities. This law would allow the government to create an "enemies list" to be attacked on alleged copyright violations and open up the entire resources of the federal government in those lawsuits.

    Keep in mind that the government does not have to win these cases, it simply has to file a lawsuit to create an enormous burden on its critics. (This is a bit like both the Nixonian and Clintonian administrations using the IRS to attack political opponents.) And remember too that the government doesn't have to sue over the specific book or media production that criticized the government. It can sue in some totally unrelated area. It can crush an opponent without ever appearing to violate the First Amendment. That is what I mean by scary.

    Second, the law is stupid because it demonstrates no awareness of just how cluttered, contradictory and filled with gray areas present day copyright law is. Yes, there are areas where the law is not gray, republishing without permission a recent best-selling book for instance. But there's no need for the federal government to intervene in those areas. Civil suits already work quite well there. Will the government intervene in more ambigious areas? If it does, it has taken sides when it shouldn't. If it doesn't the there are lots of people, particularly impoverished authors and publishers, who are being denied help but are forced to pay taxes to fund lawsuits the government does choose to initiate.

    Finally, the law is clearly unfair. The bill isn't intended to help a poor author or publisher (like me), who typically can't afford to sue, even if he has a good case. The remarks about "technological challenges," "technical experts," and "electronic data" make it clear that it's the deep-pocketed entertainment industry who'll be getting their legal costs covered by tax-payers. This law is about ordinary citizens being forced to fund lawsuits that only benefit those who can easily afford to file their own civil lawsuits.

    --Mike Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 02, 2004 @06:51PM (#9036326)
    Senator xxxx,

    Please vote "No" on S.2237.

    - Having a look at who is sponsoring it (Hatch and Leahy) alone, it is obvious that this is a matter of legislation on behalf of the large media conglomerates.

    - This legislation would involve the justice department in pursuing action against casual, non-criminal (civil) infringement.

    - This legislation is an attempt on behalf of the large media conglomerates to place upon tax payers the legal bill for pursuing unreasonable and outrageous civil penalties against their sons and daughters in highschool and college.

    If we are to be forced to assume the legal bills of the RIAA and MPAA, then it is time to have a legitimate and serious public hearing on the illegitimacy of the ever expanding "Intellectual Property" regime that is:
    - Destroying our commons.
    - Defying the intent and wisdom of our founders.
    - Tying up and suppressing the past 70 years of our history in the pocketbooks of corporate non-entities.
    - Inventing a "right to profit" from what was originally a right of the public to promote the interests of the commons.

    Disney's archive vault is NOT the commons.

    Thank you for your time,

  • Terrorism? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gary Destruction ( 683101 ) * on Sunday May 02, 2004 @07:04PM (#9036429) Journal
    I don't mean to sound trollish, but shouldn't terrorism be the DOJ's biggest focus right now? There's been an attack on Turkey and Spain this year alone. Between this recent bill and John Ashcroft's assault on porn, the JD is getting distracted.
  • by stiggle ( 649614 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @08:27PM (#9036909)
    Coming from a country that built itself on infringing existing copyrights. Look back at the history of the USA and how it used to deal with copyright. Now they want the Criminal Justice System to also prosecute Civil cases. Since when has the establishment been civilian? The sooner the USA stops the commercialisation of the government (see Senator Disney and Senator RIAA as examples) then perhaps the government might get back to being "for the people, by the people".
  • by BCW2 ( 168187 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @10:59PM (#9037613) Journal
    I emailed both of mine and one from a previous state I lived in. I did the third because I know him and think he is fairly honest. If that gets three nay votes I'll take it. Sometimes congresscritters do the right thing either; by mistake or if enough pressure from voters is applied.

    The 3 of them know that I'm a veteran and I vote!
  • by DarrylKegger ( 766904 ) on Sunday May 02, 2004 @11:39PM (#9037767)
    The truth is, as someone who has pirated music, I just dont give a crap about stealing music. Now I guess I could try and justify it with the standard reasons but you already know them.
    Why dont the holier-than-thou anti-piracy types justify their position. The reason they dont, I believe, is because to them being on the side of the law is all that matters.
    Either that or they believe in the "free market" and that by engaging in piracy you are somehow
    'distorting' the market. As though there were such a thing as a free market in the music business.
    Why you would defend the music establishment is beyond me. This is an industry whos meat & potatoes revolves entirely around leveraging as much dosh as possible out of Mom & Pops wallets by way of their children.
    And they're fucking good at it too. When asked what they think they will be when they grow up, surveys show that the kids of today all basically think they're going to be fuckin famous. It's patently absurd. I really feel sorry for the little buggers actually. Not only are they constantly fed shit ideas/products but they have little to no exercise as well, and are so fat that it is believed a whole generation of kids are going to have serious heart problems by their mid-30's!
    Oh Yes, I can see the future now. An entire generation of fat thirty-somethings living at home still clinging to the belief that a talent scout will 'find' them and shower them with fame, fortune and a triple by-pass operation.

    Now what was I talking about, oh yeah piracy....

Take an astronaut to launch.