Congress passes 'unconstitutional' Pro-IP bill, Bush likely to veto

After a warning from the Justice Dept. that a pro-Hollywood bill is unconstitutional, senators dropped a controversial provision to turn the Justice Dept. into a publicly funded enforcement arm for the RIAA and MPAA. But the bill still orders the White House to create a position to coordinate IP prosecutions across agencies. That, the White House says, is a violation of church and state. Now that Congress has passed the bill, will the President veto? We can only hope.

Over the weekend, Congress passed the outrageous Pro-IP bill (that stands for, Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act, which is almost an accurate description; the proper name would Misprioritizing Resources ...). The Senate passed the bill on Friday and the House followed suit over the weekend.

The White House, however, gave a strong signal that President Bush wouldn't sign this bill. As the RIAA originally envisioned the bill, it would have allowed federal prosecutors to file civil actions against P2P file-sharers. That provision was dropped (thanks to the efforts of Sen. Ron Wyden) but the bill still creates a White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, who would chair an inter-agency committee to combat counterfeiting and piracy, reports.

In a letter to Senate sponsors Leahy and Specter, the Justice Dept. wrote (PDF) that "the proposed legislation will undermine existing intellectual property enforcement efforts by diminishing the effective use of limited criminal enforcement resources and creating unnecessary bureaucracy."

Even thought the passed bill drops the authority for prosecutors to civilly pursue remedies against individual infringers, the passed bill does not address the Justice Dept.'s constitutional concerns over the creation of the IP Coordinator. It may seem unusual for a Bush Justice Dept. to stand up for separation of powers, but there you have it:

The statutory creation of an EOP coordinator with the duties described in the bill constitutes a legislative intrusion into the internal structure and composition of the President's Administration. This provision is therefore objectionable on constitutional separation of powers grounds.