Federal Bill to Create IP Czar

Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) introduced the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008 on July 24th.  The bill, S. 3325, is the Senate counterpart to the Pro-IP Act, H.R. 4279, which passed the House in May. Like the IP enforcement provisions in the Trade Enforcement Act of 2008 (H.R. 6530) introduced a week earlier by Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), the Leahy-Specter bill seeks to bolster anti-piracy enforcement tools at the executive-branch level.

 

The law would allow the DOJ to bring civil actions for copyright infringement, and create a new “advice-and-consent” level intellectual property coordinator within the executive branch.  This position has been dubbed the “IP Czar” by the media.

 

While IP Czar is a nice title, the position would actually be titled “Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.”  This person would require Senate confirmation and serve in the executive office of the president to coordinate inter-agency enforcement of intellectual property rights.

 

Also the bill would delete the registration requirement for a copyrighted work before a criminal infringement suit could be brought.

 

The bill will be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Congress expects final legislation will be presented to the president by the end of the year.

 

Some advocates are worried.  Gigi B. Sohn, president of the citizens’ advocacy group Public Knowledge, criticized the bill’s enhanced executive-branch enforcement authority.  In a published statement, Sohn claimed that the bill “would turn the Justice Department into an arm of the legal departments of the entertainment companies by authorizing the DOJ to file civil lawsuits for infringement, forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.” 

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