Copyright consolidation begins anew


WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers are trying again to consolidate the government's different copyright law enforcement offices into one person in an attempt to make them more effective.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., told people attending a Copyright Alliance function that he plans to introduce a copyright czar bill in the next few weeks.

"We'll have a bill in the next few weeks and try to bring all these agencies together," said Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

It was unclear how the new copyright czar will differ from the one Congress approved in 2004 under the National Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordination Council under Chris S. Israel, the current U.S. coordinator for intellectual property enforcement.

When asked about the specifics of his legislation, Conyers demurred. Aides to the Judiciary Committee said their boss, other lawmakers and the intellectual-property community were concerned about the splintered effort.

"We're trying to do something about all these agencies and what they've been doing about enhancing copyright enforcement," one aide said.

The NIPLIC was established in 2004 when Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., chairman of the Senate subcommittee that doles out funding for the Commerce, Justice and State departments, and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, chairman of the full Senate Appropriations Committee, took a personal interest in the idea.

The problem with the czar concept is that they seldom get the power to knock together the heads of the different departments. Investigators and prosecutors in the Justice Department aren't going to listen to anyone but the attorney general. At the same time negotiators in the U.S. Trade Representative Office aren't going to pay any attention to any one but the USTR.

"If it's just son of NIPLIC, you're going to get the same results," one entertainment industry executive said. "No one listens to anyone unless they have budgetary authority. That's a hard thing to do across departments."