Sen. Hatch Plans to Table Draconian IP Enforcement bill in Finance Committee (H.R.4279)

June 18, 2008

According to National Journal’s Congress Daily (subscription required) and the Entertainment Industry news site Content Agenda, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch (R) plans to table a bill in the finance committee that could become the companion legislation to John Conyers’ (D-MI) “PRO-IP” Act (H.R. 4279).

In Senate Judiciary Committee hearing statements yesterday, Senator Hatch, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and others trotted out the typical IP-maximization rhetoric that equates illegally reproduced DVD’s with poisonous imitation drugs. On the public knowledge policy blog, Ari Abramowitz breaks down the problems with these misleading statements in very concrete terms:

The occurrence of counterfeit pharmaceutical and health care items are a combined 2% of total counterfeit seizures (PDF), by value. By comparison, the bulk of seized counterfeit goods are shoes, clothes, and handbags, accounting for 43% of seizures. While these items may be trademark infringements, they are hardly worthy of health and safety alarm bells. The frequency of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and health care items are below one percent, according to WHO, and may be much lower than that, considering GAO’s data showing a 0.017% IP seizure rate in the US. The frequency of actual injuries due to such counterfeits are probably orders of magnitude lower.

Somebody needs to remind me again, what’s the rationale behind multiplying public spending and enforcement on trademarked goods if the government’s own stats suggest they’re already doing a pretty good job?

The sad truth is that the IP-extremists in the congress, the GAO, and the industry lobbies don’t give a sh*t about evidence. They’ve demonstrated time and again a total lack of concern as to whether or not public policies reflect peer-reviewed empirical data.

In fact, they don’t give a sh*t if the DOJ itself comes out against the PRO-IP ACT – and when was the last time you knew the DOJ to turn down an opportunity to expand its enforcement mandate? I’d wager that the DOJ leadership and its bureaucrats know an inefficient, wasteful project when they see one.

Furthermore, given the expansion of executive authority under the Bush administration, you have to wonder why anyone would want to place IP enforcement directly under the executive branch. Doing so opens the door to abuses of numerous forms, not the least of which might be the “extraordinary
rendition” of your iPod (which some members of the Canadian press believe could come about through ACTA anyway).

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