Republican Rep. Wants Taxpayers to Pay for Piracy Police (Again)
July 12, 2012 4:10 PM
Tax and expand the federal gov't says Texas Rep. Lamar Smith (R)
"When there's copyright infringement / In your neighborhood / Who you gonna call? / The U.S. federal taxpayer funded IP task-force!"
I. SOPA Returns, Renamed and Pared Down
It sounds like a joke, but that's precisely what the
The Intellectual Property Attaché Act
[PDF], hopes to implement. The goal is to fight "global" piracy, but the proposal admittedly acknowledges that the taskforce -- a sub-agency of the
U.S. Department of Commerce
-- could be used in the homeland, as well.
In fact, it seems more than likely that the task-force created by the IP Attaché Act, would operate
in the U.S., given difficulties in sending IP "cops" overseas to quasi-hostile infringement-prone regions like China. (What would they do in China, "arrest" street merchants selling knockoff DVDs?)
Overseas complaints are already well-policed -- or about as well policed as is possible -- by the
World Trade Organization
So the new Commerce Department copyrights cops are essentially redundant, unless their policing happens to primarily focus on the U.S. And you can bet it does.
The bill is essentially a repackaging of the heart and soul of the fortunately deceased
) and the U.S. Senate's Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) (
). In fact, it's authored by the same fellow --
Rep. Lamar Smith
(R- Tex.) -- who wrote SOPA.
Rep. Smith surely was sweating a bit under the collar when SOPA went down in flames. After all, big media wrote him a check for $85,000 USD during the last campaign cycle [source] and lawyers, many of whom represent big media clients, chipped in another $58,000 USD. [
Rep. Lamar Smith feels he's above the laws he's looking to subject his lowly proles to.
[Image Source: Lamar Smith]
Together these contributions gave him about 10 percent of the money he needed to crush Lainey Melnick 69-to-28 percent voting margin (Mr. Melnick only raised $34,000 USD lacking sufficient big media sponsors). To be fair, many of Rep. Smith's colleagues
received similar payouts
from big media.
That kind of money doesn't come for free or cheap. It comes with big favors. In this case the cost of the donations was likely a commitment to tirelessly push "anti-piracy" legislation even if it ignores big media corporations'
, wastes taxpayer money, and likely tramples on civil liberties.
Clearly Rep. Smith doesn't truly take his rhetoric to heart, given the fact that he
ripped off an independent artist's work
for his homepage art, and reportedly initially refused requests from the artist for acknowledgement.
II. Will it Pass?
So does the IP Attaché Act stand any more of a chance of surviving than Rep. Smith's last monstrosity, SOPA?
The largely politically apathetic public burned through
a great deal of energy
killing the last bill
. And this revised version will likely draw
less corporate opposition
in that it appears to remove its provisions for sweeping website takedowns in its draft.
Further, the SOPA v. 2.0 (of sorts) has the support of House Oversight Chairman,
Rep. Darrell Issa
(R-Calif.) -- who initially supported SOPA as well, but later became a critic who helped sink the measure.
has obtained a statement from Rep. Issa's office,
Rep. Issa is set to support the legislation, with small modifications. The Intellectual Property Attaché Act is written to help American individuals and companies that are experiencing intellectual property infringement in certain foreign countries. The legislation will place USPTO trained IP attaches in countries around the world, focusing on areas where American job creators and innovators are experiencing especially high levels of IP-theft. These attaches will work with the foreign governments to help eliminate in-country IP theft that is occurring. This is a net benefit to all Americans both IP holders and consumers. Also, the training and other programs that the attaches may provide can also help local law enforcement to deal with IP-infringement that is occurring. The cost for these attaches will come from collected PTO fees, meaning that the bill is revenue neutral. Additionally, we expect that an amendment will be made to the legislation before it is marked up that will instruct the attaches to promote clear IP exceptions like fair use – already codified in U.S. Law.
The biggest hope for killing the measure perhaps lies in its likely substantial costs and sweeping expansion of the federal government. Ballooning federal government and burdening taxpayers with the expense of large new federal programs certainly sounds outside the line of traditional fiscal conservative rhetoric that's in vogue these days.
SOPA v. 2.0 has crawled back onto the scene, but might be killed yet.
[Image Source: DeviantArt;~k1ow3]
Some Republicans may balk at essentially voting for "a tax" in order to scratch the back of big media. Although, the fact that big media donated generously to a great many members of Congress may allow them to look past their own political beasts and shove this copyright debt on the shoulders of the masses.
At least overseas there are signs of a break in the storm of big media trolling. Denmark has
its warning letters program. And Canada has implemented strong protections/permissions for user-generated content (e.g. montages) and
capped non-commercial infringement
at $5,000 USD.
In other words, the U.S. is one of the last places where big media can hope to sue individual citizens for millions of dollars for pirating a few songs. It also looks to become one of the few nations to install a special redundant "copyright police" agency at the federal level, financed by its citizens' tax burden.
House of Representatives [PDF]
"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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