US Senate Passes Pirate Act Without Hearing

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.

The Department of Justice

The Electonic Frontier Foundation

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?