12 June 2008

Another Little Gift from Tony "The Poodle" Blair

One of the illusions that I have been labouring under is that here in Blighty we are largely untouched by the worst madnesses affecting computing and the Internet in the US - things like software patents, deranged punishments for copyright infringement etc. Alas, Rupert Goodwins' laser-like mind has managed to trace out the following extreme bad news:

The [US] PRO-IP bill, H.R.4279, significantly increases the state's power to detect and prosecute IP infringement, carrying with it a whole host of new law enforcement positions and capabilities. It establishes an IP Czar, someone with the job of overseeing zealous action on behalf of copyright and trademark owners, and includes such powers as the ability to seize equipment if it contains just one file thought to infringe.

Importing and exporting infringing material will attract harsh penalties, and there's a $30,000 per-track fine on music (so that's half a million dollars for an album), The list goes on, and I thoroughly recommend you go out and Google to educate yourself on the many quite overwhelming powers the US government wants to give itself in its apparent determination to put file sharing on a par with drug dealing, gangsterism and other great crimes against society.

Thank goodness we're not in America? That hardly helps. Among the many provisions is the establishment of "five additional Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinators in foreign countries to protect the intellectual property rights of U.S. citizens [...] increase DOJ training and assistance to foreign governments to combat counterfeiting and piracy of intellectual property." -- and if you think their job is just to lead the rest of the world in the way of American righteousness, think again.

In many ways, the worst bit of news is our own fault - or, rather, the fault of the pusillanimous apology of a government that pretends to rule this country:

As a UK citizen, you no longer have any effective defence against a US demand for deportation. Under the Extradition Act 2003 the US can apply for a UK citizen to be extradited without having to present any evidence to face charges of a crime committed in the US – for which the UK citizen need not have been actually present.

So you can be extradited to the US without anybody having to present evidence against you, for something you may (or may not) have done in the US, that is legal in the UK but possibly against one of their crackpot rules. Thanks, Tony, you've certainly managed to dump one hell of a legacy....

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