Songwriters Guild: Use FBI to Target “Most Egregious” File-Sharers

Songwriters Guild: Use FBI to Target “Most Egregious” File-Sharers

Wants govt to have power to file civil lawsuits against file-sharers, and complains that the FBI has “significant resources” to target economic crimes of a “much lesser magnitude” like Bank Robbery, but not online copyright piracy. Also blames the “Internet as currently constructed” for the music industry’s “ruination.”

The Songwriters Guild of America (SGA) wants the US govt to help ratchet up its war on online piracy by enlisting the help of the FBI to target illegal file-sharers.

In a letter submitted to the govt’s new Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), Victoria A. Espinel, as part of the public comments phase of the Coordination and Strategic Planning of the Federal Effort Against Intellectual Property Infringement, the SGA wants the FBI to launch criminal investigations against the the “most egregious” offenders, and prosecute them with criminal violations of copyright laws.

“Criminal investigations under existing law should be opened by the FBI against the most egregious online copyright infringers,” it says. “These investigations should be followed up by prosecution of those found to have clearly violated the criminal prohibitions at 17 U.S.C. § 506.”

The only problem here is that the according to US Copyright Law criminal infringement must be “for the purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain.” File-sharers transfer content only for private use and noncommercial gain.

The SGA goes on to complain that the US Attorney’s Offices aren’t taking the problem serious enough, and that this “unfortunate” and “misguided attitude” has allowed file-sharers to “decimate” the music industry.

If this all wasn’t odd enough already, it even wants the White House to support legislation that would give the Justice Dept the power to file civil lawsuits against file-sharers, effectively turning the country’s law enforcement arm into a new free army of lawyers for copyright holders bought and paid for by taxpayers.

This was attempted back in 2007 with the Intellectual Property Enforcement Act, but luckily the legislation died in the Senate Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

The SGA complains it “insufficient resources” to sue every file-sharer and wants the FBI, or even a similar law enforcement agency (it’s not too picky), to be given the power to do its job for it. Incredibly enough, it uses bank robbery as an example of an economic crime on a “much lesser magnitude” for which the FBI seems to adequate time and resources to investigate and prosecute.

“There are numerous economic crimes of much lesser magnitude (such

as bank robbery) that are routinely and fully investigated, for which law enforcement agencies such as the FBI have significant resources,” it says. “By contrast, online copyright piracy dwarfs bank robbery in causing economic losses, yet the FBI has limited criminal investigative interest and no civil mandate whatsoever to pursue this devastating economic harm. This inequity must change.”

It apparently doesn’t see the huge difference between the two, especially the fact that neither property nor money are stolen. The property is intangible and the money is in the form of perceived losses.

There’s also the even bigger, and more important distinction, that it’s asking the govt to abuse to pervert the legal system by using civil law to achieve criminal punishments.

Careful not to leave any stone unturned, the SGA even blames its problems on the Internet itself.

“The Internet as currently constructed has facilitated digital copyright piracy that has led to the ruination of the music industry,” it adds.

I guess it dreams for a DRM-esque Internet where all content and information is carefully screened by private corporations before it’s allowed to transfer to other individuals. But, it does sort of correctly size up how the music industry’s felt about the Internet all along. It’s never quite been able to come to grips with the loss of a total control over distribution.

Digital music removed the gatekeepers, and allowed artists to have a global audience in an instant and for free. What should be viewed as a golden age for the art of music has been distorted by groups like the RIAA and SGA who can’t seem to adapt to the new digital world. Blaming the Internet and trying to get the FBI to go after its customers is further proof of a copyright world gone mad.

And I thought last month’s request by the MPAA and RIAA that consumers install “tools for managing copyright infringement” on their home PCs to detect and delete infringing content as it happens was bad enough.

Stay tuned.

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