House Consdiers bill to make copying software a felony

Ron Resnick (
Tue, 5 Aug 1997 18:19:45 +0300 (EET DST)

See this "0011010010" pattern? It's mine! Get yer paws off! Don't
you dare go copy it to that "0011010010" pattern over there.

>The SPA wants to find a way around the LaMacchia Exemption, which
>exempts software copying from criminal prosecution
>unless it is willful and for profit.

So is it a felony offense to Forkpost the full text of a copyrighted
news article dealing with bit-copying felonies? ;-)

(BTW, excellent spunky bits today: "attention deficit economy" &
"Netscape Gets Breakup Fever". Never one to fear eating humble pie,
those were two great pieces, imho. Netscape really should learn
what a component marketplace is about.)


House considers bill to make copying software a felony

By Paul Heltzel
PC World Online

Posted at 7:58 AM PT, Aug 4, 1997
A bill recently introduced in the House of Representatives would make it a felony to copy more than
$5,000 worth of software.

HR 2265, supported by the Software Publishers Association (SPA), says that any person who
reproduces 10 or more copies of copyrighted software worth more than $5,000 could be sentenced to
three years in jail. A second offense could result in a sentence of six years in a federal prison. All other
cases of willful infringement would carry a maximum one-year sentence, fine, or both. The bill would
not require that prosecution be based on a motive of financial gain.

Introduced last week by Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.), the "No Electronic Theft Act" seeks to close
what the SPA considers a gap in current federal law. The SPA wants to find a way around the
LaMacchia Exemption, which exempts software copying from criminal prosecution unless it is willful
and for profit. The Senate is also considering its own version of a similar bill.

Copyright infringement certainly causes financial losses for the software industry, but should copying
without a motive for financial gain be a felonious act?

"Civil damages are often insufficient," said Mark Traphagen, vice president of Intellectual Property
and Trade Policy at the SPA. "Pirates can be organized, they can have financial backing, be nomadic,
and create a great deal of harm, all without keeping records of the damage they've caused."

Mike Godwin, staff counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sees it differently. He said the
software vendors are panicked over the ease with which copies can be distributed over the Internet,
much in the same way the entertainment industry fought VCRs and digital audiotape.

"It's not like the general public was clamoring for this," Godwin said. "If you find me a copyright
holder that's been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy by the Internet, then we have something to talk

The bill comes after two busy weeks of cyber legislation. Another recently introduced House bill,
HR2180, seeks to protect Internet service providers from liability for their customers' copyright

Yet another bill, HR2281, would enact last year's World Intellectual Property Organization copyright
treaty. The bill establishes civil and criminal penalties for those using technologies that circumvent
copyright protections. Although the treaty provides for protection of intellectual property on the
Internet, some have criticized it for being overly broad.

"What remedy does this add that wasn't there before?" asked the EFF's Godwin. "International
copyright infringes should be pursued. We think current law is just fine. It's a demonization of the
Internet, which is used by certain interests to tip the balance of the law."