The US Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation (PIRATE) act has been passed by the voice vote in in the Senate on Friday. The act still has to be passed by the House and signed by George Bush, but already carries a US$2 million (€1.64 million) budget for civil lawsuits against violators in 2005.
The act allows the Department of Justice to sue alleged copyright infringers, in addition to those cases brought by the Recording Industry Association of America. The RIAA are naturally very pleased that they have some backup in the hundreds of cases they have bring launching.
“I commend the passage of these common sense proposals that offer flexibility in the enforcement against serious crimes that damage thousands of hard-working artists, songwriters and all those who help bring music to the public,” Mitch Bainwol, RIAA chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “These acts will provide federal prosecutors with the flexibility and discretion to bring copyright infringement cases that best correspond to the nature of the crime, and will assure that valuable works that are pirated before their public release date are protected.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation rightly points out on their website that no money from any of these cases goes to the artists whose work is being infringed.
Orrin Hatch, a Republican Senator who is one of the sponsors of the act, has a related project up next, the Inducing Infringement of Copyright Act. This act sets out to penalise companies for producing technologies that can potentially be used to pirate content – such technologies include CD writers and iPods. Aside from the obvious loss of personal freedom and backwards technological step, the EFF is concerned that the act could be misused – if your competitor manufactures something that you don’t like, say the iPod for example, then you can claim that it has the potential to infringe copyright.