On Monday, President Bush signed the controversial ProIP bill into law, which will create a 'copyright czar' position within the White House and raise the potential fines for copyright infringements. While proponents of the bill such as Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Tom Donohue see it as sending a message to criminals that "the U.S. will go the extra mile to protect American innovation," opponents of the bill argue that it will have unintentional consequences and created unintended harm.

Copyright Czar

This new law creates a high-level office in the White House (the 'Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator'), raises the limits on possible damages in copyright cases substantially, and increases the number of things that can be confiscated.

Better Than it Could Have Been

The only positive aspect of this bill as it was signed by President Bush this week is that it does not include the per-song piracy penalty of the original bill which was introduced earlier this year. Under this provision, an accused pirate could have been charged separately for each copyright infringement, including once for every song featured in a pirated movie, for example.

Remix Culture

Copyright lawyer and activist Lawrence Lessig argues that these kind of draconian laws and the obsession with prosecuting copyright violations stifles our culture and that the law should be relaxed in order to create for a thriving 'remix culture.' The ProIP act, however, takes the law into the opposite direction.

The new legislation, which was cosponsored by numerous Democratic and Republican senators, including Hilary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, Gordon Smith, and Lindsey Graham, was unanimously adopted by the U.S. Senate and passed the House with a wide margin.

Image courtesy of Flickr user gruntzooki.