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US Congress rubberstamps IP enforcement bill

DoJ suits out, White House czar in

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The US House of Representatives on Sunday passed a bill heavily backed by the recording industry that would create an intellectual property enforcement czar position in the White House as well as significantly increase penalties for IP infringement.

The bill passed unanimously through the Senate on Friday after being stripped of a controversial provision that would allow the US Department of Justice to file civil suits against suspected copyright violators on behalf of copyright holders.

That issue was brought to task by the DoJ itself, which last week sent a letter to two of the bill's most prominent backers, Patrick Leahy and Arlen Spector, stating it "could result in Department of Justice prosecutors serving as pro bono lawyers for private copyright holders regardless of their resources."

The provision was also a key point of contention for public interest lobbying groups such as Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In its current form, passed by the House 341 to 41, would still create an executive-level White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator position to oversee IP policy between state and federal agencies. It also increases fines, funding for law enforcement agencies to investigate IP violations, and allows courts to seize business records associated with alleged infringement before trial.

The Bush administration threatened to veto the bill last week, stating the creation of a new cabinet post "constitutes a legislative intrusion into the internal structure and composition of the President's Administration." It's unclear how the White House currently stands on the amended legislation, given that the IP czar provision remains. ®

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