Read the fine print

In times like these – economic uncertainty, unemployment, bankruptcies at an all time high – that the government chose to focus on….peer to peer file swapping?

Basically, anyone who’s going to do file swapping of copyrighted material can be warned, fined, and jailed. EXCEPT, there was a little provision put in to the bill in the House version that basically says, if you take the material and censor out any sex or violence — make it “family friendly” — then you’re excempt from the rules.

Article archived here.House passes song swapper bill
Users of Internet ‘peer to peer’ networks could face up to 3 years in prison under the bill.
September 28, 2004: 5:52 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Users of Internet “peer to peer” networks, already dodging lawsuits from the recording industry, could face up to three years in prison under a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday.

The House voted to enlist the government to a greater degree in the entertainment industry’s fight against those who copy its products over the Internet.

Federal agents would be directed to educate the public about copyright rules and go after those who allow others to copy their music collections through “peer to peer” networks like Kazaa and Morpheus.

Those who secretly videotape movies when they are shown in theaters would also face prison sentences of up to three years under the bill, which passed by voice vote.

“The Internet has revolutionized how Americans locate information, shop and communicate,” said Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, a sponsor of the bill. “We must not let new Internet technologies become a haven for criminals.”

The Senate approved a similar bill in June, but differences must be reconciled before President Bush signs it into law.

The Motion Picture Association of America applauded the bill’s passage, while consumer groups, conservative groups and libraries said it would radically broaden copyright law and drag the government into a battle that should be handled by the entertainment industry.

Movie studios and recording companies have pressed Congress to help them in their fight against file-trading networks and their millions of users.

The recording industry says file-trading is partly to blame for a slump in CD sales, and movie studios have reacted with alarm as blockbuster films appear online before they’re even released in theaters.

The recording industry has sued more than 3,000 individuals over the past year for copyright violations, but the Justice Department so far has brought only a handful of cases against the heaviest traffickers.

The bill would train agents to investigate intellectual-property crimes and allow them to send warnings to users they suspect of copying songs illegally. Those found to be sharing more than 1,000 copyrighted files would face jail time.

One provision of the bill is likely to anger Hollywood, as it shields companies that edit out sex and violence from movies to make them more “family friendly.” Movie directors have sought to shut down such companies in court.

Copyright bills are likely to loom large in the waning weeks of Congress. The Senate this week is expected to consider a measure that would make it easier to sue peer-to-peer networks, which has drawn spirited opposition from the technology industry.

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