Gonzales pushes IP Protection Act


WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration isn't ready to curtail its crackdown on copyright crimes as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asked Congress for stronger criminal penalties for repeat offenders and stiffer penalties for counterfeiters who cause people to be injured or die.

In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Gonzales said the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007 was needed because intellectual property crimes continue to harm the economy and threaten individual safety.

"IP theft is not a technicality, and its victims are not just faceless corporations -- it is stealing, and it affects us all," Gonzales said Monday, according to a copy of his remarks. "Those who seek to undermine this cornerstone of U.S. economic competitiveness believe that they are making easy money; that they are beyond the law. It is our responsibility and commitment to show them that they are wrong."

The bill also proposes to strengthen restitution provisions ensuring copyright criminals forfeit "all of their illicit profits as well as any property used to commit their crimes."

While Gonzales called for stricter penalties on enforcement, he said the White House was not sitting idle, claiming that the Justice Department in convicted 57% more defendants for criminal copyright and trademark offenses than in 2006 than in the previous year. He told the chamber that the number of defendants receiving prison terms of more than two years increased 130%, and that there are now 230 federal prosecutors specially trained to handle intellectual property cases.

"Increased enforcement, across the government, and stiffer sentences send an important message to these counterfeiters and pirates that we take their crimes seriously, and we will punish their actions," he said. "These are complicated cases, and we need a strong nationwide network to bring good cases and to win them."