Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Corporate Welfare?

The American Library Association is now disseminating the following e-mail about extensions to copyright in the works in new congressional legislation in the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008. Its rhetoric about giving a "gift" to media conglomerates appropriates language about corporate welfare that also appears in other political literature this campaign season.

Section 101 would be an enormous gift of federal resources to large copyright owners with no demonstration that the copyright owners are having difficulties enforcing their own rights. For example, the recording industry has threatened or filed over 30,000 lawsuits against individual consumers. Movie and television producers, software publishers, music publishers, and print publishers all have their own enforcement programs. There is absolutely no reason for the federal government to assume this private enforcement role.

Moreover, in a civil action brought by the government, the defendant loses many of the protections he possesses in a criminal action. The government’s burden of proof is lower – preponderance of evidence rather than beyond reasonable doubt. Additionally, the defendant is not eligible for free legal representation if necessary. Nor does the bill adequately balance this shift against the accused. The proposed offset for civil damages is limited to certain cases, and the bill also explicitly permits the United States and private parties to exact further civil or criminal penalties in addition to those imposed by the Attorney General's civil suit.

This e-mail is also connected to a form letter for petitioning one's U.S. senator. Thanks to Carol Hughes for the link.

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