The Senate today (June 25) passed two important pieces of anti-piracy legislation that will help federal prosecutors bring copyright-infringement lawsuits that carry both civil and criminal penalties.

The Senate today (June 25) passed two important pieces of anti-piracy legislation that will help federal prosecutors bring copyright-infringement lawsuits that carry both civil and criminal penalties.

The Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation (PIRATE) Act, S. 2237, was introduced last March by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, respectively.

The bill would allow the Department of Justice to bring civil copyright-infringement cases. Currently, the Justice Department may bring only criminal prosecutions. The measure offers flexibility in federal enforcement to assure that the punishment fits the crime.

The Senate also passed the Artists' Rights and Theft Prevention (ART) Act, S. 1932, introduced in November 2003 by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. That bill would allow for civil actions against piracy of pre-release works and would prohibit camcording of motion pictures for unauthorized redistribution.

The bills now head to the House of Representatives for approval.

The record and movie industries applauded the passage, but a lobbyist representing peer-to-peer companies says such legislation could be avoided if the two sides could agree on statutory licensing.

"What it does do is force the Department of Justice into serving as 'free' outside counsel for Hollywood and the recording industry in the same kind of private suits for damages that these conglomerates previously have been required to bring on their own dime," says P2P United executive director Adam Eisgrau in a written statement.