A bipartisan proposal to create an intellectual-property czar and impose new penalties on pirates sailed through the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.
By a 410-10 vote, the House approved the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property, or Pro-IP, Act, which is backed by the entertainment industry and other major copyright holders. The proposal is chiefly sponsored by Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chairmen of the House Judiciary Committee.
The bill would rewrite U.S. law to allow federal officials to seize property--including computers or other equipment used to commit intellectual-property crimes or obtained as a result of those proceeds--from people convicted of making unauthorized copies of music, movies, or live performances. In civil cases, federal agents would have to establish that there was a "substantial connection" between the property and the offense.
In addition, the bill would also create a new position, presidentially appointed within the Executive Office of the President, charged with acting as a chief adviser on intellectual-property enforcement matters. The U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Representative, as it would be known, appears to be modeled after the U.S. Trade Representative, which already has some intellectual-property enforcement responsibilities and.
The measure had previously drawn harsh criticism from consumer advocacy groups because ofthat would have dramatically increased fines in copyright infringement lawsuits. But that section was stripped out during a committee vote, seemingly to avert proposal-killing opposition, though the bill's sponsors said they plan to revisit the issue.
Thursday's vote may have arrived scarcely a week afterlent its backing to the bill, but it seems unlikely to be on a fast track to becoming law, thanks to vocal objections from the Bush administration.
The U.S. Department of Justice has complained that establishing such a new White House-based intellectual-property officer is unnecessary and could undermine its traditional authority in prosecuting copyright cases.