Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Disputing The Need For A Copyright Czar...

The Bush Administration can be rightfully criticized for a lot of things, but they've just gotten something right.

Earlier this week, Congress passed a new bill called the "Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act". The measure essentially asks the Justice Department to bring lawsuits against copyright infringers and downloading pirates so that the music and movie industries wouldn't have to do it themselves anymore. Basically, the legislation would be a gift to those industries, shifting the financial burden onto taxpayers to protect Hollywood's and the RIAA's outdated business models.

The bill also calls for the creation of a "copyright czar" - a Cabinet-level position "charged with implementing a nationwide plan to combat piracy and report directly to the president and Congress regarding domestic international intellectual property enforcement programs."

But give credit where credit is due. The Bush Administration has pushed back against both of these efforts. First, it negotiated with the Senate to remove any language that dumps the enforcement burden on the Justice Department. And now, even with the bill's passage in Congress, the White House is threatening to veto the "copyright czar" provisions.

Due to online file sharing, copyright law certainly needs to be reformed, but it ought to be done in an honest intellectual manner that maintains the goal of protecting artists and content creators while still not stripping consumers of established rights they have had for decades. The bill that Congress has brought to the President's desk hardly meets that criteria. It is hard to justify calling it anything other than a multibillion-dollar gift to the recording industries that is a direct result of ambitious corporate lobbying, and comes at the taxpayer expense.

With the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, the Financial Bailout, etc., do we really need the government to engage in an all-out War on Piracy? Aren't there more important things for Congress to be focusing on this week?


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