Hollywood Docket: Obama Administration Proposes Tough New IP Laws

The White House is proposing stronger intellectual property laws, including making it a felony to illegally stream music and movies over the Internet and allowing the government to have wiretap authority in copyright cases.

IP Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel has published 20 legislative recommendations to Congress on the White House's blog. Some of the proposals are aimed at cracking down on organized criminal syndicates, particularly with respect to counterfeit drugs and software. Other recommendations, including an endorsement of a public performance copyright for sound recordings transmitted by over-the-air broadcast stations, have been the result of intense lobbying by various companies and individuals in the entertainment world.

The MPAA cheered the development in a statement.

"Closing the legal gap between two methods of equally destructive illegal behavior – unauthorized downloading and streaming – adds more clarity to intellectual property law and, frankly, makes good common sense," said Bob Pisano, interim president and COO of the MPAA.

In other legal news...

  • The UK's justice secretary unveiled a shake-up of libel laws intended to make it a bit tougher for plaintiffs to bully the media. The proposed law would end the presumption of a jury trial and establish truth as a defense to a defamation claim, but wouldn't shield ISPs from liability as some had wanted.
  • The Republican National Committee is considering selling the broadcast rights to its GOP presidential primary debates, but must figure out whether the proceeds would constitute illegal political contributions.
  • The owners of the copyrights to the famous 1985 Chicago Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle" are suing publisher Random House for selling a book with an insert of the song in question, which allegedly violates a royalty contract and is false advertising.
  • The estate of author James Joyce sent a cease-and-desist letter to a geneticist involved in creating the first "synthetic life form" for including a quotation of A Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man in the synthetic DNA.
  • A court has ordered Girls Gone Wild creator Joe Francis and Mantra Films to pay $3 million to a woman who was identified as Eliot Spitzer call girl Ashley Dupre in a video. The award related to the plaintiff's emotional distress for being mistaken for Dupre and her damaged reputation in the age of Google.
  • Facebook has tasked Chinese lawyers to stop a "Poking Inventor" action figurine of Mark Zuckerberg. The Chinese law firm sent a cease-and-desist letter and the respondent apologized to Zuckerberg, Facebook, and their Beijing law firm, promising the figurine "will not appear on Earth anymore."