President signs new federal IP law: Legislation considers piracy issues, creates 'copyright czar'

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The United States is stepping up to better protect intellectual property.

If there was any doubt before, it's official now with a new law signed by President George W. Bush Oct. 13. Known as the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008, or PRO IP for short, the law is designed to strengthen existing copyright laws, create civil forfeiture clauses so equipment believed to be used in an IP crime can be seized, and establish a cabinet-level position to oversee this country's IP enforcement and educate other countries about the laws in effect here.

Seen as sweeping IP enforcement legislation combating the billions of dollars in entertainment industry sales lost each year to piracy, the Senate unanimously approved the bill in its final form in September. Prior to that support, the legislation was widely seen as controversial in its earlier stages.

One of the most controversial measures of the bill gave the Justice Department the authority to sue copyright infringers on behalf of Hollywood and the music industry. That aspect was removed after the White House lobbied against those new powers, arguing it would create unneeded bureaucracy and would amount to federal prosecutors becoming "pro bono lawyers for private copyright holders regardless of their resources."

Though that aspect of the legislation was ultimately removed, the final version of this bill was backed by the movie and recording industry, unions, manufacturers, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"This sends a stronger message that we're serious about IP rights and enforcement," said L. Scott Paynter, a partner with Krieg DeVault in Indianapolis. "Part of it parades our views on intellectual property, and in that sense we're trying to send a warning or message that we'll tackle this issue seriously."

One of the most publicized portions of the new law is an executive-level position of "Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator," which is being dubbed as a copyright czar. This person would need Senate confirmation just as any federal judge or prosecutor, and the post is similar to the drug czar created by Congress in the 1980s to wage a war on drugs.

The new copyright czar will oversee what's now handled by various agencies and committees - government anti-piracy crackdowns and training for other countries about IP enforcement. That person's primary responsibility will be to chair the "intellectual property enforcement advisory committee," created in Section 301 of the act, a group brought together from several agencies that include the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Patent and Trademark Office, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The law says the person in this position "may not control or direct any law enforcement agency in the exercise of its investigative or prosecutorial authority" but that the primary function is to develop a "joint strategic plan" to wage war on those who infringe on copyrights, which includes facilitating the sharing of information among law enforcement agencies and other countries. The bill also doubles the penalties for copyright infringement and counterfeiting.

"The establishment of this federal position will focus our initiatives outside our borders," said Indianapolis attorney Todd Vare, who chairs Barnes & Thornburg's IP practice group. "We're trying to do exactly what happened when the drug czar was created, collaborating with other countries and working with them to eliminate IP infringement and these notorious piracy efforts."

Paynter, who often handles software registration issues for clients, said what strikes him about the new law more significantly than the copyright czar position is a harmless error provision.

All information from databases isn't always available and can lead to inaccurate or inconsistent data, he said. Prior to this law, that could result in harsh penalties if that information was deemed inaccurate.

"This helps insulate you from that," Paynter said. "That harmless error provision jumped out at me more than the czar aspect."

Vare said it's hard to tell what the impact will be in Indiana and across the country, but he doubts it will result in big companies filing suits to rake in damages for profit.

Attorney Jonathan Polak with Taft Stettinius & Hollister in Indianapolis said the cornerstone of the new law is the improved statutory damages scheme, but that practically nothing much is changing because judges will have the final say on what damages are awarded. This act provides guidance in clarifying what constitutes "use" of copyrighted material, which is necessary to avoid inconsistent court rulings, Polak said.

"What IP holders need is certainty as to the scope and enforcement of their rights, and legislation that promotes certainty in those areas is always good," he said. The court system takes it from there. In five years, we'll know whether this accomplishes those goals or whether it was, as its opponents feared, making government nothing more than Hollywood's proxy." •

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  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

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  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.