I was just alerted that the House of Reps has passed HR 4279, with the lovely name, PRO-IP (Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008). Like the doublespeak PATRIOT Act and Peacekeeper missiles, PRO-IP puts local law enforcement in a position to demand the forfeiture in criminal proceedings of stuff used to violate copyright. Which means that instead of the RIAA simply trying to collect fines, they can also incite local authorities to collect all the computers and related gear that was used to pirate.PDF Link (Thanks, Glenn!)
This isn't a judgment on my part as to whether piracy is good or bad (I think copyright deserves to be protected through reasonable methods), but I am always horrified when civil enforcement morphs into criminal enforcement. Conservatives and liberals should be up in arms alike that local prosecutors and/or police could intervene as they desire in essentially a private affair arranged by the RIAA, and permanently seize thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in private property in addition to any civil penalties.
If this bill is passed in its present form by the Senate and signed, that means there's no more pro forma RIAA lawsuit payoffs, because if you wind up settling with the RIAA, you could still lose all your stuff in addition to any fee you paid them.
This is particularly irksome in light of the MSN Music shutdown, about which the EFF has written a strong and powerful letter. It is increasingly likely a normal person could have purchased music legally from an online site, burned it to an ordinary audio CD, and in the right set of circumstances be branded a pirate because the original "granting" authority no longer exists to prove that the consumer was a legitimate purchasers.
The more the law is constructed to sweep in folks who are absolutely observant of it, the more we need broader protections.