The music industry has been testifying in a case before the US House of Representatives
which could impose a US$1.5m fine for copying a CD.
The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2007
is currently at the committee stage.
The proposed legislation seeks to increase the fines for copying or counterfeiting music, and would criminalise the copying of individual CD tracks. This would make the fine for copying a 10-track CD as much as US$1.5m.
William Patry, senior copyright counsel at Google
, and a former copyright counsel to the House of Representatives, slammed the legislation as "the most outrageously gluttonous intellectual property bill ever introduced in the US".
"Throughout his career as the MPAA
's chief lobbyist, Jack Valenti skilfully and successfully employed moral panics and folk devils before Congress in an effort to gain increased copyright protection," he said.
"As metaphors, Valenti's moral panics provided the means by which busy and sympathetic members of Congress could appear to be engaged in sober reasoning."
The bill also includes provision for the creation of a US Intellectual Property Enforcement Representative appointed by the president, an Intellectual Property Enforcement Division with a US$25m annual budget in the Department of Justice, and additional intellectual property attachés to staff US embassies.
The move has brought sharp criticism from the Electroni c Frontier Foundation
, which claims that the media industry is trying to get the government to pick up the tab for a job it should be doing itself.
"These new federal bureaucrats would essentially have one responsibility: protecting the business interests of the biggest names in movies, music and software," said the organisation.
"All these industries are profitable, many of the corporations are foreign, and yet they want the American taxpayer to pick up the tab.
"Surely Americans would rather see their tax dollars spent helping businesses and individuals who do not have ample means to help themselves."
Other provisions of the bill include allowing federal authorities to seize and sell off any computers or networking equipment used in copyright theft.
"Our founding fathers understood the importance of innovation so well that they specifically provided strong protection for intellectual property in the Constitution itself," said Tom Feeney, a Republican congressman for Texas.
"Intellectual property piracy and counterfeiting undermine the creative spirit that drives our economy, and constitute a threat to consumer health and safety. This initiative will provide us with more tools to address this growing problem."