Sharing copyrighted material is punishable by three to ten years in prison in a bill approved by a House judiciary subcommittee Thursday. The Piracy Deterrence and Education Act of 2004 goes next to the full Judiciary Committee for review. The committee could consider it within a month, according to a staff member.
The congressional action is in contrast to a Canadian federal court ruling that peer-to-peer file sharing is not illegal.
The proposed U.S. law would allow the imprisonment penalties for file sharing involving a total of more than $1000 in copyrighted works within a three-month period. Those who release copyrighted material for commercial purposes, or release material previously unavailable to the public, are the most severely punished. As an example, someone who sneaks into a movie theater with a camera intending to record and sell the movie on the street faces the harshest hard time and the highest fines.
A main reason for the bill is to curb the increased occurrence of child pornography on peer-to-peer sharing, say subcommittee members.
The measure cites a General Accounting Office study that finds “when searching the most popular peer-to-peer service for keywords known to be associated with child pornography, 42 percent of the returns were associated with images of child pornography.”
The Recording Industry of America, which is suing hundreds of file sharers for alleged copyright infringements, says the bill would protect consumers while providing “a strong signal that lawmakers recognize that viable filtering technology is available now, and that [peer-to-peer] businesses should prevent illegal activity to protect consumers.”