US president Bush signs anti-piracy bill; creates IP czar

MUMBAI: US president George W. Bush has signed a controversial bill – Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO IP) Act, which would stiffen penalties for movie and music piracy at the federal level. The bill was signed on Monday, 13 October.

As per the law, an intellectual property czar will be created who will report to the president on how to better protect intellectual property rights (IPR) domestically and internationally. The new law also toughens criminal laws against piracy and counterfeiting.

Apart from movies and music, the bill will also look at counterfeit drugs and software. The legislation is important to music and movie studios, television broadcasters, pharmaceutical companies and software producers.

The new billl has been backed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the US Chamber of Commerce.

The bill has been in controversy as the US Justice Department argued that the creation of an intellectual property czar would undermine its authority.

As per the US Chamber of Commerce, counterfeiting and piracy costs the US nearly $250 billion annually.

A statement from The White House regarding the new act read, "This legislation helps protect the rights of America’s consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs by strengthening both our civil and criminal laws against counterfeiting and piracy. Specifically, the Act increases statutory damage awards in civil counterfeiting cases, it strengthens remedies available in the prosecution of criminal cases involving counterfeiting and piracy, it enhances resources (personnel, training, and equipment) for Department of Justice programs that combat IP theft, and makes permanent the Administration’s Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP!) Initiative and its inter-agency IP coordination efforts. The PRO-IP Act protects the work of American innovators, strengthens the rule of law, and will help keep American families safe."

RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol welcomed the new law saying, "This bill truly is music to the ears of all those who care about strengthening American creativity and jobs. At a critical economic juncture, this bipartisan legislation provides enhanced protection for an important asset that helps lead our global competitiveness.  The intellectual property industries are widely recognized as a cornerstone of the U.S. economy.  Additional tools for intellectual property enforcement are not just good for the copyright community but for consumers who will enjoy a wider array of legitimate offerings. We congratulate and commend Senators Leahy and Specter and Congressmen Conyers, Berman, Smith and Coble for their leadership and commitment on this important issue."