New US anti-piracy bill becomes law

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The piracy of pre-recorded content has just become a lot more serious after tough new legislation in the US became law last night.

President George W Bush has signed a controversial bill that significantly increases the severity of the legal penalties for pirating movie and music content. The law also toughens criminal laws against piracy and counterfeiting.

The law creates an intellectual property tsar who will report directly to the president and advise on how to protect copyrights both domestically and internationally, despite concerns from the US Justice Department that such a role would undermine its own work on the issue.

The Recording Industry Association of America and Motion Picture Association of America backed the bill, as did the US Chamber of Commerce.

"By becoming law, the PRO-IP Act sends the message to IP criminals everywhere that the US will go the extra mile to protect innovation," said Tom Donohue, chief executive of the US Chamber of Commerce.

He added that counterfeiting and piracy costs the US alone nearly $250 billion (145 billion) a year in lost sales.

Rick Cotton, general counsel for NBC Universal, said the bill would give movie and music makers more tools to fight what he called a "tidal wave" of counterfeiting and piracy of everything from medical devices to automobile parts to media by organised crime.

"That is at the core of what this discussion is about," he said. "It is not about teenagers."

Cotton said he did not expect an IP tsar to be named before Bush's term ended in January.

Richard Esguerra, a spokesman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he was relieved to see lawmakers had stripped out a measure to have the Justice Department file civil lawsuits against pirates, which would have made the attorneys "pro bono personal lawyers for the content industry."


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