David Kravets at Wired has news of a new bill that could give the Justice Department enforcement powers to take down pirate sites throughout the world. The mechanism the bill would use is an injunction against domain registrars. There are reasons for both optimism and pessimism, according to Kravets.
The Bush administration in 2008 threatened to veto legislation two years ago that created the nation’s first copyright czar unless similar Justice Department powers were removed.
The White House, in successfully pressuring for a rewrite to the legislation, said the original proposal requiring the attorney general to sue copyright infringers “could result in Department of Justice prosecutors serving as pro bono lawyers for private copyright holders regardless of their resources. In effect, taxpayer-supported department lawyers would pursue lawsuits for copyright holders, with monetary recovery going to industry.”
As Kravets goes on to explain, this administration’s DoJ is lousy with industry lawyers. That may result in this expansion of enforcement powers being less of a sticking point. The Obama administration has also pretty much resoundingly backed ACTA so is quite clearly for the expansion of intellectual property enforcement powers.
This is no less than a transparent power grab by big content. The silver lining is that it is also perhaps a signal that they are growing impatient with ACTA. That agreement would obligate not just the US but many other countries to grant distinct but similar powers to this new bill.
In this particular case, taking down illegal sites through their ISPs and domain registrars, I am almost positive that it is already possible, even in foreign jurisdictions. I read this bill then as an attempt to eliminate cost and friction. Pushing cost cutting from the entertainment industry into the Department of Justice gives new significance to the idea of propping up hemorrhaging business models.
Whatever the back room dealing and lobbying that led to this horrible idea, Kravets lists the bill’s sponsors so we can start writing our representatives. Hopefully a concerted effort will prevent this from gaining any momentum.