The U.S. House of Representatives introduced a 69-page bill entitled the “Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2007.” The legislation is significant in that it increases civil penalties for copyright infringement, expands criminal enforcement, and creates both a new federal agency and a new division of the Attorney General’s office of the Department of Justice. The full text of the proposed legislation is here: H.R. 4279. I have established an RSS feed in the column of my blog for tracking purposes.
It is important to realize that, up front, that this is proposed legislation. This is the first step in the legislative process. The first step in the life of a bill, if you recall your Schoolhouse Rock song, I’m Just a Bill, is referral to a committees that deliberates, investigates, and revises the proposed legislation before it is recommended that it proceed to general debate by the full House of Representatives. This process can take a long time, or get stalled. In fact, the majority of bills never make it out of committee. The ones that do often do not resemble the proposed legislation very much at all, as sometimes the text goes through numerous iterations before it gets recommended, if at all. Other times, sections of a proposed bill may be incorporated into another bill, and in those cases the original bill, as it was introduced, is abandoned. That is say that a lot can happen before this process ends. Once a bill is approved by the House of Representatives, the process starts all over again in the Senate!
The major sections of the proposed legislation are:
* TITLE I—Enhancements to Civil Intellectual Property Laws One of the more significant amendments to Section 104 of the Copyright Act, pursuant to this proposed legislation, is that it would allow courts to make “multiple awards of statutory damages” when compilations are infringed or when both derivatives and the original are infringed.
TITLE II—Enhancements to Criminal Intellectual Property Laws This is one of the more extensive expansions of the proposed legislation, allowing for stricter enforcement of willful, criminal infringement.
This title is perhaps the most sweeping part of the proposed legislation. The effect would be the creation of a new federal bureaucracy called the United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Representative (other reports state that is it called the “White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Representative, or WHIPER, but that designation does not appear in the proposed legislation). The head of this new agency would be a member of the Executive Branch and, therefore, would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The new post would report directly to the president and serve as his or her principal advisor and spokesman regarding intellectual property matters, including, for example, identifying countries that don’t adequately protect IP rights or are not in compliance with international treaties.
As part of this new agency, a new “interagency” committee would be established for the purpose of intellectual property enforcement. The new committee would be composed of the enforcement representative, who would chair the committee, and senior representatives of various departments and agencies involved in intellectual property enforcement, appointed by the respective heads of those departments and agencies. Those agencies include the DOJ, the Trademark Office, the Copyright Office and Homeland Security, just to name a few.
Under this section, the Trademark Office will appoint 10 intellectual property attachés to serve in United States embassies. The 10 appointments shall be in addition to personnel serving in the capacity of intellectual property attaché at United States embassies or other diplomatic missions on the date of the enactment of this Act.
In this section, the proposed legislation would created within the U.S. Justice Department’s an “Intellectual Property Enforcement Division” to subsume the IP-related functions that the department’s computer crime section in the criminal division currently performs. The new division would receive $25 million per year to start with.
This is by no means an exhaustive analysis of this proposed legislation, so take the time to read it for yourself and, if appropriate, contact you local representative to comment on the proposed legislation.