April 19, 2005 4:33 PM PDT

Prison terms on tap for 'prerelease' pirates

File swappers who distribute a single copy of a prerelease movie on the Internet can be imprisoned for up to three years, under a bill that's slated to become the most dramatic expansion of online piracy penalties in years.

The bill, approved by Congress on Tuesday, is written so broadly it could make a federal felon of anyone who has even one copy of a film, software program or music file in a shared folder and should have known the copyrighted work had not been commercially released. Stiff fines of up to $250,000 can also be levied. Penalties would apply regardless of whether any downloading took place.

If signed into law, as expected, the bill would significantly lower the bar for online copyright prosecutions. Current law sanctions criminal penalties of up to three years in prison for "the reproduction or distribution of 10 or more copies or phonorecords of one or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of $2,500 or more."

The bill could be used to target casual peer-to-peer users, although the Justice Department to date has typically reserved criminal charges for the most egregious cases.

Invoking a procedure used for noncontroversial legislation, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the measure, called the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act. Because the bill already has cleared the Senate, it now goes to President Bush for his signature.

Enactment of these criminal penalties has been a top priority this year for the entertainment industry, which has grown increasingly concerned about the proliferation of copyrighted works on peer-to-peer networks before their commercial release.

"This bill plugs a hole in existing law by allowing for easier and more expeditious enforcement of prerelease piracy by both the government and property owners," said Mitch Bainwol, chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America. "We applaud Congress for taking this step."

The bill's supporters in Congress won passage of the prison terms by gluing them to an unrelated proposal to legalize technologies that delete offensive content from a film. That proposal was designed to address a lawsuit that Hollywood studios and the Directors Guild of America filed against ClearPlay over a DVD player that filtered violent and nude scenes. (ClearPlay had gained influential allies among family groups such as the Parents Television Council and Focus on the Family.)

Peer-to-peer network operators criticized Congress' vote on Tuesday.

"It appears the entertainment industry has once again gotten Congress to use taxpayer dollars to clean up their internal problems," said Michael Weiss, chief executive of StreamCast Networks. Weiss, whose company distributes the Morpheus client, says that many movies and music files that find their way to the Internet early are provided by insiders in the entertainment industry.

Adam Eisgrau, executive director of P2P United, a peer-to-peer software industry association, said his group remains "concerned that the nature of the punishment remains radically disproportionate to the technical crime."

Added Peter Jaszi, a professor at American University who specializes in copyright law: "I don't think this is an approach that is well calculated to create respect for the system."

The criminal sanctions embedded in the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act have been inching their way through Congress since

CONTINUED:
Page 1 | 2

57 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
I got a good way not to get caught
Don't trade the stuff, don't use p2p software, if you don't do those 2 things then you are not likly to get caught doing it, since you can not be caught "red handed" if you don't do it.
Posted by mpop1 (57 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bittorrent, how I love you
:)
Posted by wazzledoozle (288 comments )
Reply Link Flag
gr8
So in the US they put hackers/crackers into jail while in china the government employs them. So who will win the information war?
Posted by (92 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I especially like the name of the bill
The name of the bill is almost amusing.

The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act.

Would it have passed as easily if it was, say:

The Throw-Your-Teenager-In-Jail-For-Years Act
The Make-Millions-Of-People-Felons Act?

I for one am very happy about not living in the US, these days. The level of corruption in Congress and the Senate must be reaching truly mind-blowing proportions. I guess nobody really bothers to remember that they are there to represent the citizens, not the corporate interests? Scary.
Posted by lorcro2000 (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Half of US voters still crazy?
And what else does one expect from a corporate run country?

First the majority (slight, but still majority) re-elects an abominable administration, that has clearly shown over the first four years that personal profit and buddy - buddy economy are it's major concern, any real kind of national interests non - existent.
Keeping citizens in a permanent state of fear being the only way to keep going with it's 'grab all I can ever eat and then some, for me and my mega rich friends who happen to conveniently control all that's controllable' policy.
So start a couple of wars, ignore constitution, rest of the world, all nice and dandy, and please recycle your complaints yourselves, it's so much easier. And watch 'live' TV with a delay, although the broadcasters are our best friends, well, who knows, some loser might say something you want to protect your kids from hearing so you will not hear it either.

And
Posted by googey10 (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Big money always buys off the government
Hollywood needs a reality lesson.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Must be nice to be able to buy off congressmen
If they think it's theft, it should just be treated like a theft and not given special protections. If someone broke into a poor person's house and stole their life savings of $400, they might not even get jail time. But prevent one movie exec from buying that new porche, and jail for you!

Someday, I hope to have my very own congressman in my pocket too.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Aren't the prisons crowded enough?
I don't mind massive fines or restrictions being placed on a convicted pirate, but let the punishment fit the crime. Considering the constant cries of overcrowding among the prisons across the country, and budget cuts resulting in violent criminals being paroled or released early (encouraging them to commit further crimes, which so many do), should congress REALLY be putting movie/software pirates in jail?
Posted by DaClyde (96 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This "law" is clearly unconstitutional!
As soon as "dubya" puts his John Hancock to this useless "legislation" (shame on you, Congress!) the Supreme Court is obligated to declare it unconstitutional. Something in the constitution regarding "cruel and UNUSUAL" punishment! Think about this, people! An 18 year old high school kid turned into a FELON over such a minor infraction. Remember, just having it in a shared folder qualifies the person as a FELEON, regardless of ACTUAL downloads! If the courts don't shoot this to HELL and back, I propose a revolution against "dubya" and his regime! And I'm serious! (BTW, I personally don't now or ever use P2P for anything, but this "law" is just going too far!)
Posted by ray08 (64 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Interesting Choice of Title
Congressmen very often use some strained acronym to describe legislation, i.e. Senator Orrin Hatch's "Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act or DREAM Act.

This one is called the "Family Entertainment and Copyright Act."

All that they are missing is an 'L' at the end.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
So how about a one year consumers strike?
Just stop buying any new media for one year. Listen to your old CDs. Read books. Surf the web. Download legal stuff: there's plenty of stuff that is freely offered by its creators: look for stuff licenced under Creative Commons or other free licences. Stop trying to get what everyone else has. Look for artists nobody else heard of, then tell your friends what you found.

If everyone stops buying mainstram media for one year, it would be a different world!
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Unrealistic and probably wrong, I'm afraid
First of all, it can't be done. People will always buy some mainstream media.

Secondly, if sales go down, the MPAA/RIAA will just howl: "PIRACY! We need tougher punishments! Oh, and since we're selling less, we'll raise prises so we get more per unit!"

Of course, then they'll sell even less... but that is no doubt merely due to piracy, it has nothing to do with high prices for lousy product. ;)
Posted by lorcro2000 (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Only Applies to "For Profit" Piracy
One thing left out in the article is that this law only bans posting pre-distribution works "for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain." If you don't believe me, follow the article's link to the bill, and look at Section 103(a)(1)(A). So this bill doesn't affect the casual P2P'er, only the people who make a living out of selling pirated works. Three years still sounds a bit harsh, but it's not draconian.
Posted by led56 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Huuh?
It looks like the "or" applies to all 3, so if it's any of those 3 cases you're in trouble.
Posted by (84 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Are you sure?
P2P is maybe a 1/2 dozen years old. What did people do before? NNTP, FTP, HTTP, and IRC are a few examples of non-P2P. I admit that I've tried almost every P2P client from Napster to BT. I couldn't care less if P2P disappeared forever. There's nothing wrong with FTPing to get a Linux distribution. It's sure a lot faster than using a .torrent file.
Posted by ledzep75 (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The wrong approach...
If I were in a position to receive and review exclusive material, it
would be an awfully hard sell to get me to accept ANYHING
under these new circumstances.

Furtherore, I don't think the RIAA (and others) realize the extent
to which it's own overbearing tactics have harmed the industry.
Posted by veryfrustrateduser (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lies? what about xandros? P2P isn't all bad.
I find it shocking that you consider mentioning Linux and Peer to Peer in the same sentence to be an insult to linux. P2P, although used for illegal uses, is a blessing to the internet.

As for me lying, Look at Xandros:
-Open Circulation (HTTP download) $10
-Open Circulation (BitTorrent download) No charge

(from <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.xandros.com/about/downloads.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.xandros.com/about/downloads.html</a>)
Is xandros dragging the name of Linux through the mud?

When downloading files from busy servers, it's faster to use Bittorrent. It's how I got Slackware, as well as the free fanfilm "Star Wars: Revelations." (The Revelations site went down from too much traffic over HTTP, the torrents got faster with all that traffic)

I have a friend who tapes at taper-friendly concerts, and the 1 to 5 GB lossless audio file that is created can only be distributed through a very expensive server, or bittorrent for free.

As a small home-server admin, Bittorrent is also a blessing, greatly reducing bandwidth. Many people offering legal content on the internet ask you to use Bittorrent if you can before trying their FTP mirrors. World Of Warcraft, by Blizzard, was offering it's patches through Bittorrent for a while. I make my own computer music, and share it over Gnutella and Ares.

As a matter of fact, I have yet to use Bittorrent for an illegal use. Bittorrent isn't inherently bad, just like knives, which are lethal weapons, are also useful in many instances. (Please excuse this extreme analogy, but you were pretty extreme when you accused me of lying.)

It is impossible to steal with bittorrent. You are unable to deprive anyone of property. It is possible to infringe copyrights, but you can infringe copyrights over HTTP, FTP and IRC too. Technically only the uploader or distributor is infringing, they are the one making the copy. Is someone who buys bootleg CD's of the streets stealing? No. The person making the CD's is the one committing the crime, infringing on the copyright.

The penalties for downloading an album are much greater than for physically stealing the CD from wal-mart. In my opinion, this is Draconian. Your opinion is probably different, as well as unchangeable.

But please, don't drag the name of Bittorrent though the mud with your lies.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Tables Have Turned!!
Whatever happened to that lawsuit that the consumers won by the high brow attorneys saying they was price fixing by the CD record companies?
The national article said the consumer need not do anything that they would see lower CD prices in the CD store. That never materialized as the prices still stayed at the status quo.

Next thing with the movie industry. Their greed when they first released DVD's and the prices were astronomical. They should be held responsible for price gouging. Then next look at the price it costs to see a movie. That is a wasting resource and it disappears after all time has transpired for that asset.

Next look at the price points today for these things and they still are in the stratosphere which had nothing to do with p2p file sharing.

Next thing is look at availability of a certain artist. For example I tried to get the double CD by the Dave Clark Five that I once owned but now I can't find it anywhere. Another Double CD of great songs I can't find is the Troggs greatest.

Next thing to think about is the cost of a concert ticket and merchandise accompanying it. There is a lot of capitalizing going on here as what has been taking place. I paid $5.00 for a Supertramp ticket in 1977. The concert was fantastic even though the venue was sectioned off by a large curtain due to poor turnout since not many people knew who they were at the time.

Next look at the oligopolies within the communications market for radio station ownwership and TV station consolidation.

Finally, look at the capabilities that were given to the end-users by the technology companies to exploit these technologies.

The ingenious software writers of p2p saw something that was not being filled. Finally isn't possible to record a movie from your TV,cable or satellite set-up and transfer that over to DVD for self-use. That is the emphaticness I say that as long as no revenue is being derived from those activities it should be permitted.

The pre-release well, go blame the insiders in the entertainment industry for that facility to be come available and not to forget our new international friends that we have begun trading with in recent years.
Posted by alawana (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Finland To The Rescue!!!
Hey everyone, watch out for Viralg ,it is something that is being released by the Finns to obfuscate every p2p file that is trading on a p2p network to make total nonesense out of it.

"Quote within website"
Posted by alawana (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Buy Used Books & Media
Go go amazon.com or ebay.cm and puchase quality used items. Better yet wait go to your local library and check out movies for free!
Posted by kieranmullen (1070 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Heres my argument to the government
Alright, listen up, this says stuff bout putting people away for 3 years for something that costs less than 30 bucks? Thats crap. There talking bout putting millions and millions away for something that shouldn't be even considered a crime. We download music and movies made by singers, bands and actors that are snobby as hell, and get what they want, and yet were punished for the way we act? Thats ********, I'm tempted to go against this **** myself.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Disposition!
The P2P is at the US Supreme Court Level and will be decided on July 2005. The case is MGM vs.
Grokster. If you want a plethora of information go to the Electonic Frontier Foundation and you can download all the briefs in PDF form. One other thing is that this hedges on the Sony Betamax argument back in the late 1970's.

Keep this in mind, wealthy people who have satellite radio in their autos and also a CD recorder can get an unlimited amount of music gratis. Is the playing field level?

Sooner or later there is going to be a turn to the majority winning out because the technologies have made these capabilities possible for all end-users.

I welcome comments in a tremendous way.
Posted by alawana (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.