U.S. IP Czar Proposes Limits on Civil Rights and Liberties to Protect Big Content

March 16, 2011

The White House’s IP czar Victoria Espinel is calling on Congress to further expand and toughen U.S. intellectual property law, which is already among the most sweeping and strictest in the world.  Copyright regulation has grown into a massive and complicated bureaucratic system, which has lost sight of it purpose and limits.  The capture of this Administration and key members of Congress by the powerful special interests called Big Content continues to grow as demonstrated by this report, which fails to address the need for a balanced reform approach.

Espinel is asking Congress to expand federal wiretapping laws to pursue those accused of infringing on copyrighted material, and to ensure that illegally streaming movies, once considered only civil infractions, be treated as felonies.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association represents major copyright holders as well as companies across many industry sectors that also depend on fair use exceptions and limitations of copyright law. CCIA is a longtime defender of Internet Freedom and an opponent of Internet filteringspying or censorship — by any nation’s government – not just China, Egypt or Iran.
The following comments can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“The legitimate desire to address some serious counterfeiting abuses – such as medications or industrial components used in defense products – has been hijacked to create draconian proposals to alleviate the content industry of the burden of protecting its own interest using its own extensive resources.  The government’s role in protecting the public’s right to safe medicine and component parts should not be allowed to morph into supplanting the responsibility of private companies to use existing legal remedies to remove possibly infringing content online and bring legal action against those involved.

“The government has shown how its zeal leads to carelessness in its unprecedented efforts to widely seize domain names for IP enforcement, which ICE undertook this year. Sites were wrongfully shut down based on allegations the user was engaged in criminal conduct deemed lawful by their courts. We are concerned the same low threshold will be used in making decisions to spy on U.S. citizens.

“Some in Congress and the White House have apparently decided that no price is too high to pay to kowtow to Big Content’s every desire, including curtailing civil liberties by expanding wiretapping of electronic communications. Even the controversial USA PATRIOT Act exists because of extraordinary national security circumstances involving an attack on our country.  Does Hollywood deserve its own PATRIOT Act?

“This new punitive IP agenda follows just weeks after dictators spying on citizens online was the lead story in every major newspaper.  Perhaps the obvious hypocrisy caused someone to decide to wait to announce the U.S. goal of expanding our government’s powers to spy online.   A screenwriter could almost market this plot as a comedy – if it weren’t so serious.

“Maybe we should be grateful our government only wants to make streaming a song or movie a felony with potential prison time as punishment.  What’s next corporal punishment?

“This is the latest indication of the extent to which the content industry has infiltrated this administration and managed to turn the Administration’s IP agenda into a policy which protects old business models at the expense of consumers, citizens’ rights and our most innovative job creating industries.”

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