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White House pushes for tougher anti-piracy laws

The Bush administration wants new laws that would increase criminal penalties for pirates, expand criminal prosecutors’ powers and punish anyone who attempts to infringe on a copyright.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, speaking at an antipiracy summit hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the Department of Justice has submitted to Congress a legislative package aimed at toughening up intellectual-property enforcement. According to the proposal being circulated by the department, the measure would create a new crime called “attempting to infringe a copyright” and subject it to the same penalties as more serious infringement offenses, CNET reported.

The proposal would also permit authorities to seize and destroy pirated and counterfeit goods as well as technology used to produce pirated or fake material, as well as property obtained with proceeds from the sale of pirated or counterfeit material. It’s not clear how Congress will address the proposed rules, which are now under review.

In addition to possibly serving prison time, those convicted of infringements would, under the new law, have to pay the copyright holder “and any other victim of the offense” as compensation for losses resulting from the crime.

The Justice Department is also seeking in its proposal greater latitude for prosecutors. Right now it’s only possible to enforce against copyrights that are registered with the government. The new proposal would make that true only in civil cases, allowing prosecutors to go after pirates regardless of whether the copyright is registered.

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