Gov't urges tougher IP penalties

Gonzales sends bill to Congress, says piracy 'affects all'

The Bush administration isn't ready to curtail its crackdown on copyright crimes as U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday sent to Congress draft legislation that would strengthen criminal penalties for repeat offenders and for counterfeiters whose actions lead to injury or death.

In a speech Monday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Gonzales said the proposed Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007 is 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. "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."

Although Gonzales called for stricter penalties and enforcement, he said the White House is not sitting idle. He said the Justice Department in 2006 convicted 57% more defendants on criminal copyright and trademark offense charges than in the previous year. He also reported 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."