Alberto Gonzales and Thought Crime

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Well, as you all know, for a short while politricks.mnp died of pure apathy, but luckily for you out there in the general population, we’re back. At issue today, the totally Minority Report-ish articles that have been going around the net about the Attorney General’s new plan to neutralize internet piracy. Some of the points under his proposal include:

* Criminalize “attempting” to infringe copyright. Federal law currently punishes not-for-profit copyright infringement with between 1 and 10 years in prison, but there has to be actual infringement that takes place. The IPPA would eliminate that requirement. (The Justice Department’s summary of the legislation says: “It is a general tenet of the criminal law that those who attempt to commit a crime but do not complete it are as morally culpable as those who succeed in doing so.”)

* Create a new crime of life imprisonment for using pirated software. Anyone using counterfeit products who “recklessly causes or attempts to cause death” can be imprisoned for life. During a conference call, Justice Department officials gave the example of a hospital using pirated software instead of paying for it.

* Permit more wiretaps for piracy investigations. Wiretaps would be authorized for investigations of Americans who are “attempting” to infringe copyrights.

* Allow computers to be seized more readily. Specifically, property such as a PC “intended to be used in any manner” to commit a copyright crime would be subject to forfeiture, including civil asset forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture has become popular among police agencies in drug cases as a way to gain additional revenue, and it is problematic and controversial.

* Increase penalties for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anticircumvention regulations. Criminal violations are currently punished by jail times of up to 10 years and fines of up to $1 million. The IPPA would add forfeiture penalties.

* Add penalties for “intended” copyright crimes. Certain copyright crimes currently require someone to commit the “distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period of at least 10 copies” valued at more than $2,500. The IPPA would insert a new prohibition: actions that were “intended to consist of” distribution.

* Require Homeland Security to alert the Recording Industry Association of America. That would happen when CDs with “unauthorized fixations of the sounds, or sounds and images, of a live musical performance” are attempted to be imported. Neither the Motion Picture Association of America nor the Business Software Alliance (nor any other copyright holder, such as photographers, playwrights or news organizations, for that matter) would qualify for this kind of special treatment.

From CNET (News.Com) [Check out their podcast on the issue]

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The referenced article also highlights that, in terms of Hollywood, the Democrats seem to be more closely allied to Hollywood than the Republicans. It would be interesting to see how such a bill would be handled in congress.

I, for one, am not comfortable with all that “attempted” language. Furthermore it seems like this may be just some type of diversion on the part of Gonzales to take attention away from his recent lawyer firing scandals. Since the mainstream media drops any scandal that doesn’t payout in 2 weeks like a horse at a glue factory it seems like only the bloggers are all over it. The administration seems to be pointing its big hairy finger right back at the internet.

While it’s common sense that a democracy (er.. of capitalistic nature) needs intellectual property protections, I’m still not sure how far our government should go to be protecting and industry with antiquated business models. For a bunch of old fogeys who still can’t make money off the internet for some unbeknownst reason (Apple seems to be doing well despite the stock scare) the RIAA cats still seem to be doing well for themselves. By “how far” I mean why should homeland security be involved in fighting piracy? I thought they were supposed to be securing the homeland against a perceived threat.

Go Read and Form Your Own Opinion

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