IPPA: Just thinking of infringing copyright could be a crime…

Columns & Opinion, Intellectual Property, Software

Will Head writes…

Given the carey, sharey internet world we live in, some are arguing that the copyright legislation that we currently have isn’t working. That it’s preventing creativity and stifling innovation.

Then there are those that seek to strengthen copyright, make penalties for infringing it stricter and clamp down on unauthorised use of protected material.

A new proposal, called the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007, seeks to do the latter and recommends, among other things, making attempted copyright infringement a crime and life imprisonment for using pirated software.

Now, life imprisonment seems a bit harsh just for using a bit of hookey software, but it’s proposed as a deterrent for situations where using counterfeit software “recklessly causes or attempts to cause death” – like in a hospital for example. Surely hospitals aren’t so strapped for cash they’ve started downloading Windows Vista from Bit Torrent to run the intensive care unit?

The IPPA also wants to get rid of the distinction between actually infringing copyright and just attempting to do it. According to the Justice Department: “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.”

Other recommendations include increased penalties for violating the DCMA anti-circumvention regulations, allowing people to be prosecuted for intending to distribute of copyright protected goods – rather than actually distributing them, permitting the use of wiretaps in piracy investigations and making it easier to seize PCs.

Of course there’s no guarantee that it’ll go through and it will only apply to the States, but what with the borderless internet it’ll no doubt seep this way with time if it’s implemented. Maybe it would be more productive to look into ways that copyright could evolve to include new things like the internet, rather than just bolting on stiffer penalties to legislation written long before the digital age.

Will Head
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