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Proposed Measure Would Stiffen Penalties Against Product Piracy

The Bush administration is stepping up its campaign to protect U.S. intellectual property rights by putting convicted offenders in jail for longer stretches. The administration is proposing stiffer penalties against counterfeiters in a bill submitted to Congress this week. More from VOA's Bill Rodgers.

As counterfeiting of videos, CDs and other products continues, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has announced measures to stop the practice.

"This legislation would provide stronger penalties for repeat offenders and increase the maximum penalty for counterfeiting offenses if the defendant knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury or death,” he said. ”And the bill would hit the criminals in their wallets by strengthening restitution provisions and making sure they forfeit all of their illicit profits as well as any property used to commit their crimes."

Authorities say counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals and even vital medical devices such as stents and meshes used in surgery is becoming more common -- posing serious risks. Under the proposed bill, those convicted of counterfeiting these products could face life in prison.

The aim is to crack down on intellectual property theft, which costs the U.S. economy more than $200 billion a year -- and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Christopher Israel coordinates the U.S. government's anti-piracy enforcement efforts. He says the proposed measure is part of an overall strategy to stop product counterfeiting. "We're attacking it from the proposition and the position that we can stop it, we have to address it that way. It affects consumers, it affects our economy, it affects our ability to be an innovative and competitive nation, it funds criminal activity."

The proposed measure is now before Congress, where lawmakers are considering various bills to strengthen intellectual property enforcement.