Jail For File Trading???

This is ridiculous enough to be an April Fool’s joke, but unfortunately, it’s all too real…

“A House of Representatives panel has approved a sweeping new copyright bill that would boost penalties for peer-to-peer piracy and increase federal police powers against Internet copyright infringement.

…The PDEA–the result of intense lobbying from large copyright holders over the past six months–has emerged as a kind of grab-bag that combines other proposals introduced in the past but not approved. One section that first surfaced last year punishes an Internet user who makes available $1,000 in copyrighted materials with prison terms of up to three years and fines of up to $250,000. If the PDEA became law, prosecutors would not have to prove that $1,000 in copyrighted materials were downloaded–they would need only to show that those files had been publicly accessible in a shared folder.

One part of the PDEA that did not appear in earlier bills would require the FBI to “facilitate the sharing” of information among Internet providers, copyright holders and police.

“I am sure (that its sponsor) does not mean to expand the powers of the FBI,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said during the subcommittee hearing. “The concern I have is that this is very ambiguous. The language itself could lead an aggressive FBI to a different conclusion.” Lofgren’s attempt to amend the PDEA failed by a 4-14 vote.

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., a PDEA supporter whose district abuts Hollywood, said that Lofgren’s conclusions were unfounded. “They have been as passive as you can be,” Berman said, referring to the FBI. “They have authority they don’t exercise.”

Although Congress has pressured the department to use the No Electronic Theft Act to jail file swappers, no such prosecutions have taken place so far. Earlier Wednesday, however, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the creation of a task force on copyright violations.

The PDEA is an improved version of last year’s legislation and will assist “federal law enforcement authorities in their efforts to investigate and prosecute intellectual property crimes,” Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., the subcommittee’s chairman, said in his opening remarks. Smith said that the reworked version “clarifies and narrows the application of criminal copyright law to the worst P2P offenders.”

Other sections of the PDEA would require Ashcroft to boost the number of antipiracy cops on the Justice Department’s payroll, and order the U.S. Sentencing Commission to revisit prison term guidelines to make sure they reflect “the loss attributable to people broadly distributing copyrighted works over the Internet without authorization.” The PDEA also combines parts of another of last year’s proposals that bans unauthorized recording in movie theaters and includes harsh penalties if pre-release movies are swapped on peer-to-peer networks.”

Holy mother of God — 3 years in jail and a $250,000 fine for having a thousand dollars worth of downloadable songs or movies on your computer? What are they going to do next — chop your hands off to make sure you don’t use a keyboard?

This is absolutely nuts. It’s like handing out prison sentences for jaywalking — especially since it’s debatable at best whether file trading even hurts sales.

And we’re going to drag the FBI into this? Really? Do we have some sort of massive glut of FBI agents with nothing to do or have we already permanently eradicated all the real crimes; which is it? Is this scenario something we really want to see happen one day?

Agent Jones: Sir, I think we have a real problem here. You know that guy from Yemen we’ve been checking into? The guy down in Florida who went to Al-Qaeda’s Afghan training camps in the 90s? Well, he has acquired enough fertilizer to take down a good sized building and he has been getting satellite calls from Pakistan. The last one said to “stab the eagle on the 11th of April”. Something big looks to be in the works…

FBI Supervisor: That’s very interesting Jones, but we’re pulling you off of the case…

Agent Jones: But sir, I believe that…

FBI Supervisor: Sorry Jones, we’ve bigger fish to fry. This file trading has gotten out of control. We’ve got an 18 year old kid with over 250 songs on his computer. Streisand, Metallica, Vanilla Ice, the Dixie Chicks — you name it, this kid has it. We’ve got to put this kid in the slammer before it’s too late. Today it’s Moby and Eminem, but tomorrow it could be James Brown “The Godfather of Soul”. All I can say is not in my America, Jones, not in my America…

And you know what kind of impact these draconian penalties are going to have on file trading in the long run? Not much. Even if you toss a few hundred kids into jail in America, file trading will still be legal all over the world. And once Americans figure out what’s going on, they will simply download songs from other countries while turning off their own file trading, which will make them unprosecutable, even under this law. What — do these Senators think Americans are the only ones who listen to Britney Spears and Outkast? These clueless lackeys of the Entertainment industry in the Senate just drive me up a wall…

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