House passes copyright enforcement bill

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that would allow law enforcement authorities to seek the forfeiture of property used in copyright infringement.

The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act, or PRO-IP Act, would also create a new Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement representative, often called a copyright czar, in the White House. The bill would also expand a U.S. Department of Justice program that gives local law enforcement agencies grants to fight computer crimes, including grants for copyright infringement enforcement.

The bill allows both civil and criminal forfeitures of property used to commit copyright infringement.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic Representatives John Conyers of Michigan and Howard Berman of California, as well as Republican Lamar Smith of Texas. It passed the House on a 410-11 vote on Thursday.

In March, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property killed the most controversial section of the bill, which would have increased fines for compilation CDs containing pirated music by 10 times or more.

Critics had complained that one of PRO-IP’s provisions would have assessed fines for each separate copyright work on a compilation work such as a CD, meaning the fines for a 10-song compilation CD would range from $7,500 to $1.5 million, instead of the current $750 to $150,000.

The Recording Industry Association of America praised the House for passing the bill. “Intellectual property industries” create millions of jobs and bring billions of dollars into the economy, RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol said in a statement. The bill is a “strong, common-sense measure” that will provide the tools needed to protect intellectual property, the statement added.

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