DOJ to use NET Act against P2P users

— 4:45 AM on January 28, 2003

It looks like the US Department of Justice is finally going to start going after P2P file swappers under the 1997 No Electronic Theft (NET) Act, which quite clearly outlines conditions under which peer-to-peer users could be committing a felony:

`(a) CRIMINAL INFRINGEMENT- Any person who infringes a copyright willfully either--
`(1) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain, or
`(2) by the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of 1 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $1,000,
Under the NET Act, fines and up to five years of jail time are fair game for file swappers, but the DOJ will have to prove that the users in question are willfully violating copyrights by sharing files over P2P networks. I suppose an accused could claim ignorance, but I have a hard time believing that anyone sharing $1000 worth of copyrighted material via Kazaa doesn' t know they're violating copyright.

To date, the NET Act hasn't been used to prosecute P2P users, but it looks like that's all about to change. A total of 19 politicians have requested that the Justice Department go after those guilty under the NET Act, and it looks like it will only a matter of time before heads start rolling:

It didn't take long for the Justice Department to respond. A few weeks later, John Malcolm, a deputy assistant attorney general, said to expect some NET Act prosecutions. "There does have to be some kind of a public message that stealing is stealing is stealing," said Malcolm, who oversees the arm of the Justice Department that prosecutes copyright and computer crime cases.
Enforcing the NET Act certainly isn't going to put an end to P2P piracy, but a few public convictions could make many mainstream file traders think twice before firing up Kazaa. At the very least, NET Act prosecutions should reinforce the message that sharing copyrighted works over peer-to-peer networks is very much illegal, regardless of whether or not you would have bought the CD otherwise.
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