Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., declared yesterday (May 26) that he will co-sponsor the pending "Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act of 2004" (PIRATE Act).

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., declared yesterday (May 26) that he will co-sponsor the pending "Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act of 2004" (PIRATE Act).

The bill, S 2237, was approved last month by the Senate Judiciary Committee and will soon be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor. If ratified, it would allow the attorney general to bring civil actions against copyright infringers, with the same actual or statutory damages allowed under current law.

The attorney general is currently not authorized to assist copyright owners in combating online piracy, except through criminal prosecutions. Federal prosecutors can rarely justify bringing criminal charges, and copyright owners have been left to defend their rights only when they can afford to do so.

Alexander is the co-chair of the Congressional Songwriter's Caucus. The bill's original sponsors are Sens. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.