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Background: House Judiciary Committee John Conyers (D-MI) and Intellectual Property Subcommittee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced legislation to change the penalties for copyright violations. The statement is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge.
“We remain concerned that several provisions in this bill could have harmful, if unintended, consequences that would harm consumers. The bill rightly targets enforcement of copyright law against commercial infringers, but some of these same enforcement provisions are likely to hurt ordinary consumers. Seizing expensive manufacturing equipment used for large-scale infringement from a commercial pirate may be appropriate. Seizing a family’s general-purpose computer in a download case, as this bill would allow, is not appropriate.
“The bill increases penalties for violations while weakening incentives to register copyrights, which benefit the copyright holder and the public. The result of this legislation would be to create even more “orphan works.”
“The bill also takes a direction opposite from that taken in recent patent legislation. The House has passed legislation limiting patent damages relative to actual harm, a strong policy that will promote competition and innovation. This bill takes already extraordinary copyright damages and increases them, expanding the threat of litigation intended to stifle competition and innovation.
“Increasing penalties is one of the least necessary, and quite possibly counter-productive, actions the Committee could take, particularly when current law is adequate to deal with most infringement issues and because the higher penalties serve only to force faster and larger settlements potentially from innovators.
“Instead of following the course of this bill, the Committee should look to the future, to a more realistic and rational copyright regime that can adapt pre-VCR copyright laws to a post YouTube world.
“We thank Chairman Conyers and Chairman Berman for including us early in the process for this bill and look forward to continuing the dialog on these important issues.”