New Bill Enlists FBI, DoJ in Copyright Battle

With none of the fanfare that usually accompanies the introduction of a new bill, Rep. Lamar Smith (R.-Tex.) quietly slipped proposed new legislation into the hopper Thursday calling for greater FBI and Department of Justice (DoJ) involvement in Hollywood’s ongoing war against file swappers.

The Piracy Deterrence and Education Act of 2003 (H.R. 2517) calls for the FBI to “develop a program to deter members of the public from committing acts of copyright infringement,” including increased information sharing of suspected online copyright violations among various law enforcement agencies, copyright owners and Internet service providers (ISPs).

In addition, the DoJ would be required to formulate programs to educate the public on copyright laws.

Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, found a co-sponsor of the bill in Rep. Howard Berman (D.-Calif.), who introduced legislation in the last Congress that would have authorized copyright owners to hack into computers of suspected file swappers.

Neither Smith nor Berman seemed anxious to comment on the legislation. Repeated calls to their offices were unreturned until Smith’s office finally sent a copy of the bill with no comment or press release. The legislation has not yet been posted online.

A Berman spokesperson finally returned an inquiry by saying, “Congressman Berman is really only showing his support for Congressman’s Smith bill. Its really his bill.”

Not surprisingly, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), strongly supports the legislation, although an RIAA spokesperson said Friday the RIAA hadn’t actually seen the written text of the bill.

“The Smith-Berman legislation will strengthen the hand of the FBI and other federal law enforcement officials to address the rampant copyright infringement occurring on peer-to-peer networks,” the RIAA stated in a press release. “This common sense, bipartisan bill will help ensure that federal prosecutors across the country have the resources and expertise to fully enforce the copyright laws on the books — especially against those who illegally distribute massive quantities of copyrighted music online.”

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