WATPA: FW: File-trading penalties legislation moves forward

From: Norm Jacknis <norm@jacknis.com>
Date: Sun Sep 19 2004 - 15:35:21 EDT

File-trading penalties legislation moves forward
IDG News Service 9/10/04

Grant Gross, IDG News Service, Washington Bureau
Legislation that would expand the definition of criminal file-trading over
the Internet was approved Wednesday by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

The Piracy Deterrence and Education Act of 2004, which now moves to the full
House for a vote, potentially expands the number of people who could be
charged with criminal copyright violations by expanding the definition of
criminal copyright infringement. In addition to people who "willfully"
distribute copyright works such as music files, the expanded definition
includes people who "knowingly" distribute copyrighted works "with reckless
disregard of the risk for further infringement."

Opponents of the bill say it would make criminals out of peer to peer
(P-to-P) software users. P2P United, a lobbying group representing P-to-P
vendors, advocates instead that the recording industry work with P-to-P
vendors on a way to pay artists for downloads, said Adam Eisgrau, executive
director of the group.

"Putting downloaders behind bars, or decimating their college funds with
civil lawsuits, won't put the genie of peer-to-peer technology back in the
bottle or put real money in the pockets of real artists for the literally
billions of inevitable downloads that survey after survey clearly show will
increase every year for the foreseeable future no matter how much Congress
continues to allow entertainment conglomerates to 'offload' their
responsibility to enforce their copyrights onto the American taxpayer,"
Eisgrau said by e-mail in response to a request for comment.

The bill that passed the full committee was an improvement over an earlier
version of the bill, but the legislation is still "too vague" and could
create criminal violations for material that's stored on a computer network,
said Public Knowledge, an intellectual property law advocacy group. The
maximum criminal penalty in the bill is five years in prison for a first
offense, and the bill includes a civil penalty for some copyright violations
of up to US$10,000 per violation.

The bill, sponsored by Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, would
also authorize the U.S. Department of Justice to send notices outlining the
penalties for file trading to the ISPs (Internet service providers)
providing access to those file traders. The newest version of the bill makes
the warning program voluntary instead of required for ISPs and it allows
ISPs to recover their costs for participating in the program, a change from
the earlier version of Smith's bill.

The goal of the legislation is to help law enforcement agencies prosecute
more copyright violations, Smith said in a statement.

"Piracy of intellectual property over the Internet, especially on
peer-to-peer networks, has reached alarming levels," he added. "The overhead
for pirating copyrighted material relative to other illegal economic
activities is minimal, the profits are exceptional, and the relative risk
level of attracting the attention of law enforcement officials is low. Low
risk and high profit is how criminals view piracy."

Separately, the committee also approved a spyware bill that would create
criminal penalties for those who access a protected computer without
authorization and use it to commit a federal offense, violate personal
privacy or impair computer security. The Internet Spyware Prevention Act.
sponsored by Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican,
complements the Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act (SPY
ACT), approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in June. SPY ACT
focuses on the definition of spyware and requires computer users give
consent before information-collecting software is installed.

Grant Gross is Washington correspondent for the IDG News Service.
Received on Sun Sep 19 15:40:45 2004

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