Lamar Smith Looking To Sneak Through SOPA In Bits & Pieces, Starting With Expanding Hollywood's Global Police Force
by Mike Masnick
While it didn't get nearly as much attention as other parts of SOPA, one section in the bill that greatly concerned us was the massive expansion of the diplomatic corp.'s "IP attaches." If you're unfamiliar with the program, basically IP attaches are "diplomats" (and I use the term loosely) who go around the globe pushing a copyright maximalist position on pretty much every other country. Their role is not to support more effective or more reasonable IP policy. It is solely to increase expansion, and basically act as Hollywood's personal thugs pressuring other countries to do the will of the major studios and labels. The role is literally defined as pushing for "aggressive support for enforcement action" throughout the world. A few years ago, we detailed how, at a meeting of these attaches, they bitched and complained about how copyright "activists" were making their lives difficult and were a "threat" who needed to be dealt with.
In other words, these people are not neutral. They do not have the best interests of the public or the country in mind. Their job is solely to push the copyright maximalist views of the legacy entertainment industry around the globe, and position it as the will of the US government.
It was good that this was defeated as a part of SOPA... but now comes the news that Lamar Smith is introducing a new bill that not only brings back this part, but appears to expand it and make it an even bigger deal. Politico has a short blurb:
SMITH, OTHERS UNVEIL IP BILL -- House Judiciary Committee chief Lamar Smith and other members are unveiling today their new Intellectual Property Attache Act, which realigns the Commerce Department a bit. The measure as proposed would move the current attache program housed with the USPTO to the full agency, complete with an assistant secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property. The proposal is slated for full committee markup on Tuesday. Named as supporters on the measure are a number of panel Dems and Republicans: Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Mel Watt, Darrell Issa, Howard Berman, Howard Coble, Steve Chabot, Jason Chaffetz and Adam Schiff
You can see the current draft of the bill (pdf and embedded below), but it has not yet been officially introduced. However, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark it up in the morning, suggesting that it's on the fast track, with almost no public scrutiny. In fact, I've heard from people worried about this bill that they were only told of its existence on Saturday.
The specifics of the bill appear to go further than the version in SOPA. It is clear that the bill itself is framed from the maximalist perspective. There is nothing about the rights of the public, or of other countries to design their own IP regimes. It notes that the role of the attaches is:
to advance the intellectual property rights of United States persons and their licensees;
The bill also "elevates" the IP attaches out of the US Patent and Trademark Office, and sets them up as their own agency, including a new role: the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property. Yes, we'll get another IP Czar, this time focused in the Commerce Department.
When even the USTR is recognizing the importance of limitations and exceptions to copyright, to have Congress push a bill that basically ignores limitations and exceptions and only looks to expand Hollywood's special thugs within the diplomatic corp. seems like a huge problem.
But the even bigger issue is a simple one of process. Shouldn't Lamar Smith have learned by now that you don't try to sneak through SOPA or any of its components without first getting widespread public opinion on these things?
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