The PIRATE Act is back, and this time it means business. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) yesterday introduced the Intellectual Property Enforcement Act (PDF), with Leahy saying, "The PIRATE Act has passed the Senate on three separate occasions; this should be the Congress in which it becomes law." Like previous incarnations of the PIRATE Act, this one tries to force the Department of Justice to bring suits against individual file-swappers, something that could save the recording industry plenty of money and could also displace some of the "bad guy" stigma that the labels have acquired after suing people like Jammie Thomas.
The bill would give the Department of Justice authority to bring civil (not just criminal) cases against infringers, though it does limit penalties to those that could be imposed in criminal proceedings. The Attorney General can also bring such civil suits only when the act in question constitutes a crime (such civil suits can be easier to win). Leahy and Cornyn want Justice to start prosecuting file-sharers, which sounded like a bad idea the first time we heard it and hasn't gotten any better since. Since the No Electronic Theft Act passed in the late 1990s, the DoJ has actually had the authority to bring criminal cases against file-swappers under certain situations; to date, it has not filed a single one.
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