Broad (and scary) new digital copyright bill

This is a frightening turn in the evolution of the DMCA, intellectual property and copyright - both for educators and citizens.

Congress readies broad new digital copyright bill April 24, 2006 (From a news story on

"For the last few years, a coalition of technology companies, academics and computer programmers has been trying to persuade Congress to scale back the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Now Congress is preparing to do precisely the opposite. A proposed copyright law seen by CNET would expand the DMCA's restrictions on software that can bypass copy protections and grant federal police more wiretapping and enforcement powers.

The draft legislation, created by the Bush administration and backed by Rep. Lamar Smith, already enjoys the support of large copyright holders such as the Recording Industry Association of America. Smith, a Texas Republican, is the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees intellectual-property law.

A spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee said Friday that the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2006 is expected to "be introduced in the near future." Beth Frigola, Smith's press secretary, added Monday that Wisconsin Republican F. James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the full House Judiciary Committee, will be leading the effort."


If these changes are made, it would be a federal crime for just trying to commit copyright infringement - attempts, even if they fail, could be punished by up to 10 years in prison.

Currently the DMCA generally prohibits distributing or trafficking in any software or hardware that can be used to bypass copy-protection devices. The proposed change says you cannot "make, import, export, obtain control of, or possess" any anticircumvention tools if they may be redistributed to someone else. An example that is often used is the recent involves the so-called "rootkit" on some Sony BMG Music Entertainment CDs that was exposed. Jessica Litman, a professor of copyright law at Wayne State University, say that "If Sony had decided to stand on its rights and either McAfee or Norton Antivirus had tried to remove the rootkit from my hard drive, we'd all be violating this expanded definition."

This law would allow wiretaps in investigations of copyright crimes and permits criminal enforcement of copyright violations even if the work was not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

It increases criminal penalties for copyright infringement originally created by the No Electronic Theft (NET) Act of from 5 years to 10 years (and 10 years to 20 years for subsequent offenses). The NET Act targets noncommercial piracy ( posting copyrighted photos, videos or news articles on a web site).


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