Bill proposes jail time for P2P file swappers

— 3:44 AM on March 29, 2004

Wired has an interesting report on a couple of proposed bills floating around Washington that would make it easier for law enforcement to punish those illegally sharing files via peer-to-peer networks. One of the proposed bills lists a 10-year maximum prison term as a potential penalty for file swapping, and the other allows the Justice Department to pursue civil cases against those sharing copyrighted materials.

Predictably, peer-to-peer advocacy group P2P United is critical of the proposed bills:

"As the 40 percent increase in downloads over the last year makes alarmingly clear, like it or not file sharing is likely to (continue) on a massive scale no matter how many suits are brought and what the fine print of copyright or criminal law says," Eisgrau said. "Second, putting a tiny percentage of tens of millions of American file sharers behind bars or in the poorhouse won't put one new dime in the deserving pockets of artists and other copyright owners."
P2P United would rather explore ways to compensate copyright holders whose works are being traded over peer-to-peer networks. However, US Senator Orrin Hatch, who is responsible for one of the proposed bills, accuses peer-to-peer networks of trying ransom the entertainment industry:
In defending the Pirate Act, Hatch said the operators of P2P networks are running a conspiracy in which they lure children and young people with free music, movies and pornography. With these "human shields," the P2P companies are trying to ransom the entertainment industries into accepting their networks as a distribution channel and source of revenue.
Hatch has a point. However, it should be noted that Hatch received over $150,000 in contributions from the entertainment industry. The Senator has a music career to protect, too.
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