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IP-Rights Act on Fast Track

The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act, which was just introduced last week in the Senate, is on a fast track as legislators try to take care of business before exiting at the end of this week for a month-long recess.

The bill is on a list of several the Senate Judiciary Committee is trying to mark up -- amend and vote on -- Thursday.

The legislation -- which has the backing of Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- would create a post in the White House to coordinate enforcement of IP laws by various government agencies; would require coordinating with Congress to develop a strategic play to combat IP theft; and would boost resources for IP enforcement, all similar to provisions in the House PRO-IP bill.

It would also give the Justice Department the power to bring civil cases against suspected copyright infringers. Currently, it can only pursue criminal prosecutions and must rely on aggrieved copyright owners to file civil suits.

The bill attempts to bring together a number of Senate bills on the subject, as well as to mirror the PRO-IP Act, which passed earlier this year by a wide margin in the House.

The Chamber of Commerce wrote to Leahy and Specter Wednesday praising the bill and the "expeditious" scheduling of the markup.

"I think the Senate Judiciary Committee's leadership in sponsoring a bill and scheduling it for markup is enormously positive," said Rick Cotton, executive VP and general counsel of NBC U and chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy. "It signals a real desire to legislate this year and recognizes the importance in an economic downturn of protecting U.S. innovation and jobs," he told B&C.

The bill is backed by the major Hollywood studios, as well as publishers and content providers, including B&C parent Reed Elsevier.