Attorney General's copyright plan draws criticism

A sweeping proposal to criminalize piracy "attempts" and boost penalties for copyright infringement is encountering some backlash.

Proposed expansions to criminal copyright law put forth by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday aren't exactly getting rave reviews from some inside-the-Beltway groups.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association on Tuesday blasted the sweeping proposal as "outlandish" and argued it would undermine the legitimacy of the nation's intellectual property laws.

"Will office workers be wiretapped for lingering too long near the photocopier?" CCIA president and CEO Ed Black asked in a statement. "Will music fans be sent to prison if they fail to secure their digital devices to the satisfaction of the record companies?"

The Bush administration proposal calls for elevating criminal penalties for copyright infringement, including "attempts" to commit piracy, in a number of ways. The draft legislation would also authorize wiretaps for investigations of Americans who are "attempting" to infringe copyrights, a tactic now reserved for probes of murder and other federal felonies.

Gigi Sohn, president of the Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Public Knowledge, called the proposal's penalties "out of touch with reality" and the overall approach "full of bad ideas."

The most vocal advocates for antipiracy policy, however, continued to keep their views under wraps. Representatives for the Recording Industry Association of America and the Business Software Association both said Tuesday that they was still reviewing the documents internally and could not comment.

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