The Justice Department has proposed a bill that would criminalize “attempted copyright infringement;” require the government to seize devices used in the copying; and allows criminal prosecution of copyright infringement without the work being registered. The proposal also would require courts to seize and destroy any property used in circumventing DRM, and would grant the Justice Department wiretapping authority to investigate “attempted copyright infringement.” Thus, an attempt to download an illegal mp3 joins the ranks of such similar crimes as bribing officials, taking hostages, or “unlawful use of explosives.”
A large bulk of the bill is spent requiring courts to order the destruction of property and equipment used to violate IP laws. The bill inserts this same language into copyright, trademark, and trade secret law. Most worryingly, it gets put into the already-flawed DMCA, meaning that if you circumvent DRM, even on something you've lawfully acquired, the government would be required to seize and destroy your computer.
The truly sad part about this bill is that it's nothing new. The Justice Department submitted a nearly identical piece of legislation to Congress in 2005. Our response to it now is much the same as it was then. This package of proposals will have wide-ranging, deleterious effects on IP law…if it passes. It didn't go anywhere then, because of its overreaching provisions. Let's hope this ill-conceived package meets the same fate.
Our press release on the subject is here.