Bush signs RIAA-backed intellectual-property law

A new law signed by the U.S. president on Monday creates a cabinet-level position to coordinate federal efforts to combat copyright infringement.

Updated at 12:45 p.m. PDT with quotes.

President Bush on Monday signed into law an intellectual-property enforcement bill that would consolidate federal efforts to combat copyright infringement under a new White House cabinet position.

The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act establishes within the executive branch the position of intellectual property enforcement coordinator, who will be appointed by the president.

The law also steepens penalties for intellectual-property infringement, and increases resources for the Department of Justice to coordinate for federal and state efforts against counterfeiting and piracy. The so-called Pro-IP Act passed unanimously in the Senate last month and received strong bipartisan support in the House.

The Bush administration initially expressed its opposition to the legislation, but one of its more contentious provisions, which would have allowed the Justice Department to pursue civil litigation against copyright infringers, was removed.

The law has received wide-ranging support from within the business community, including from the Recording Industry Association of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and copyright holders such as NBC Universal. Labor groups such as the AFL-CIO have also expressed their support for the new law. Business and labor groups have said strong intellectual-property enforcement is critical for the development of the U.S. economy.

"What the Congress recognized and the president has ratified is the critical importance of innovation, technical invention, and creativity to the U.S. economy," said Rick Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel of NBC Universal. "This law will dramatically move the priority of IP enforcement up the agenda in critical ways."

Intellectual property in the U.S. is worth more than $5 trillion, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and accounts for more than half of all U.S. exports.

"By becoming law, the Pro-IP Act sends the message to IP criminals everywhere that the U.S. will go the extra mile to protect American innovation," said Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The legislation saw opposition from some public-advocacy groups, including the American Library Association, Public Knowledge, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"It would've been nice to have something to benefit the public and artists instead of big media companies," Public Knowledge Communications Director Art Brodsky said, noting that Congress and the president could give more consideration to the public on matters of intellectual property, with further action on the issue of " orphan works ," copyrighted material for which the owner cannot be found.

The Senate in September passed a bill limiting civil actions in copyright infringement cases involving orphan works.

 

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