The most controversial section of the bill punishes Internet users who offer “for distribution to the public” $1,000 or more in copyrighted materials with prison terms of up to three years and fines of up to $250,000. If it became law, prosecutors would not have to prove that $1,000 in copyrighted materials were actually downloaded; they would need to show only that those files had been publicly accessible in a shared folder.
An existing law called the No Electronic Theft Act already permits federal prosecutors to bring criminal charges against individual copyright infringers, though no such prosecutions have taken place so far. About the closest the government has come to that politically charged possibility is the announcement last month that a specific file-swapping group called the Underground Network is being investigated.
Also, Wired News’ File Traders Could Do Hard Time
Copyright bills are likely to loom large in the waning weeks of Congress. The Senate this week is expected to consider a measure that would make it easier to sue peer-to-peer networks. The bill has drawn spirited opposition from the technology industry.