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Hollywood, software groups push DoJ copyright busts

A most unholy alliance

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Music bootleggers and software crackers tired of wading through the entire United States Code to see if they're about to break the law, or incur daunting criminal liabilities in excess of the potential value of their planned activities, may now consult a handy reference guide on line.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has published a manual for prosecuting intellectual property violation and copyright infringement, including the maximum penalties for each sort of infraction and related sentencing guidelines.

It also lists common-sense strategies for the Feds to score a win in court, including a breakdown of fair-use exceptions which can be profitably exploited, and value estimates of the allegedly infringed works engineered for success.

For example, when seeking a felony rap, "prosecutors should be careful simply to charge a value greater than $2,500," the Department advises.

We deeply appreciate the banana-republic prosecutorial ring of that wording. 'Go on, pick a number out of a hat; just ensure it's greater than 2,500.' *wink*

That damned Internet

The DoJ reaffirms its deeply held conviction that the Internet was conceived principally as some diabolical mechanism to shield terrorists, paedophiles and copyright violators from law enforcement agents and prosecutors.

"Internet cases raise unusual evidentiary and proof issues," the Department observes. "One substantial challenge for Internet cases is to accurately determine the identity and quantity of the infringing items (pirated copyrighted works) that were distributed."

However, baffled Feds are encouraged to seek assistance in developing their cases. "Law enforcement agencies should utilize all available resources in identifying victims and determining loss," the DoJ says.

By which they mean: 'when in doubt, contact your friendly neighbourhood software or entertainment industry front group.'

"In certain circumstances, assistance might be sought from the private sector. Certain private industry business associations, such as the Business Software Alliance, the Interactive Digital Software Association, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Software Information Industry Association, have provided significant assistance in previous investigations," the DoJ recommends.

If that sounds like an unholy alliance, we mustn't blame the Department. It's not their fault, they insist. "In recent years, Congress has taken an especially strong interest in intellectual property crimes as well as intellectual property law generally," the report emphasizes on about eight different occasions.

The culprit here is the US Congress, whose members take in vast campaign donations from these industry groups and are then, obviously, required to deliver legislation favourable to their benefactors if they wish to see the money spigot remain open.

House Members are particularly susceptible to this sort of manipulation, being compelled by law to mount a campaign every two years. Indeed, one barely has time to take the oath before the next fund-raising cycle commences.

US legislators have grown so dependent on entertainment and software industry succour that "Congress took the unprecedented step of singling out intellectual property crimes for detailed accounting in the Attorney General's Annual Accountability Report," the DoJ laments.

We've long observed the ways in which these industries influence the US legislative agenda; here we see that they're influencing national law-enforcement and prosecutorial priorities as well.

Ain't Democracy wonderful? ®

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