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"Stealing is stealing is stealing."
——DOJ's John Malcolm
PEER-TO-PEER USER CRACKDOWN?
The Man and His Laws Threaten Action
Against Consumers
Scofflaws who download music and other copyrighted entertainment stuff may soon have to face the music from behind bars.

That’s the jack-booted message delivered by a U.S. Department of Justice official this week at a technology policy summit in Colorado. According to a CNET report, the DOJ is ready to begin prosecuting users of peer-to-peer filesharing services—meaning individual consumers of entertainment products whom entertainment companies have been loath to sue for fear of alienating their customers.

You might want to "just say no" to downloading those Air Supply tracks you've had your eye on, mister.

According to the report, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Malcolm told Progress and Freedom Foundation summit attendees that something must be done about “the world’s largest copy machine” in order to protect the copyright industries. “There does have to be some kind of a public message that stealing is stealing is stealing,” he said, noting that criminal prosecutions of offenders would soon be sending that message.

Members of Congress, including Senators Joseph Biden and Dianne Feinstein recently sent a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft—reportedly after intense lobbying on the part of media companies—urging the DOJ to prosecute “individuals who intentionally allow
mass copying from their computer over peer-to-peer networks” (see story, 8/12) The prosecutions would be carried out under a 1997 law known as the No Electronic Theft, or NET act.

The law makes it a federal crime to share copies of copyrighted material such as software, movies or music if the material is worth more than $1,000. Breaking it can bring a prison sentence of up to five years. It's not clear if the penalty would be increased for downloading, say, a Michael Jackson song that cost $864,000,000 to record.

RIAA President Cary Sherman, who spoke at the conference with Malcolm, said the music industry would welcome such prosecutions and that the risk of jail time would like make many swappers “think twice” about what they’re doing.

News Corp. President and Fox CEO Peter Chernin also announced at the gathering that movie studios will begin to run public service announcements in theaters warning that illicit copying adversely affects the lives of the people who make entertainment products.

“These are people's livelihoods at stake. It's not just a bunch of fat-cat Hollywood people,” he said.

The PSAs will also appear on television and be inserted in video releases. With any luck, they’ll help keep some people out of the hundreds of thousands of new jails our government will have to build in order to house the millions of swapper-convicts out there breaking the law this very minute.

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