Why Congress, Why Part II

26 October 2008

As promised, we are returning to the PRO-IP bill to look at Congress's reasons for the bill.  This may be our last look at S. 3325; there's a lot of other interesting stuff going on in the international IP world (check out the sidebar).  Also, if you haven't already done so, please submit your thoughts on some good things about IP protection!

Here is a brief look at two more reasons Congress listed as its sense for why the US needed to strengthen its IP laws: (S. 3325 § 503.)

  • effective criminal enforcement of the intellectual property laws against violations in all categories of works should be among the highest priorities of the Attorney General

Why?  Why should criminal enforcement of intellectual property be more important than violent crimes, drug issues or the government's favorite enemy, terrorism?  I'm not sure I can buy this reason.  How do others feel about it?

  • terrorists and organized crime utilize piracy, counterfeiting, and infringement to fund some of their activities
Oh!  That's why.  The IP criminals are terrorists!  At first I was very skeptical about this; it was the government crying terrorism like the boy cried wolf.  But I looked into it a bit and found that there is some support for this claim.  Most of the information and studies are about 3 years old.  The reports seem to show two separate connections between terrorist organizations and copyright infringement:

(1) terrorists engage in piracy in the same manner that they engage in a variety of other illegal trade, such as arms trafficking or drug running,

(2) people who have been arrested for piracy have been supportive of or have leanings towards terrorist organizations.

I will agree then that piracy, counterfeiting and infringement funds terrorist activities.  If terrorists are fundraising with pirated goods just as they are with drugs, then yes, piracy is technically funding terrorism.  It’s also possible that pirates who support terrorist organizations might donate funds they raised from their piracy.  Again, this can technically be called piracy funding terrorism.  If the terrorists sold flowers, would we enact laws against those? 

As another author pointed out, copyright infringement is its own issue.  Yes, it is illegal, so yes, the government should address it.  But protecting the rights of creators should not be mixed up with anti-terrorism laws.  I’m sure all illegal activities can be linked together in some way.  Drug dealers might drive over the speed limit; people who drink under age might also jaywalk; and terrorists might engage in copyright infringement.  That doesn’t mean that the laws dealing with each of these crimes should be all mashed together.

As for the organized crime claim, this seems like a problem from a logic game.  If a group of people have organized their copyright infringement activities so that there are large-scale manufacturing plants and elaborate distribution networks, as is the case in Nigeria for example, are the pirates using organized crime to support their piracy, or are the criminals using piracy to support their organized crime?

For those who are interested, here are some further links for information on the terrorism/piracy connections:

the government claiming a connection (2005)

report of person engaged in infringement and supportive of Hezbollah (2006)

the scary stuff: RIAA video claiming the link (2008)

and something a bit reassuring: Current US AG’s take on the issue (2008)


2 Responses to “Why Congress, Why Part II”
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Craigjc said...

I love this blog. Keep up the good work.


October 27, 2008 at 5:38:00 AM PDT
goldenrail said...

Thanks! We'll certainly try.

October 27, 2008 at 5:47:00 AM PDT