WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Dec. 17) -- Watch out! Your bootleg Counting
Crows Web site could land you in jail.
President Bill Clinton today signed into law a bill that extends
criminal punishment to those who violate the copyrights of others, even
when they do not profit from the violation.
First offenders could be on the hook for up to three years in prison
and $250,000 in fines.
Software and entertainment industry leaders pushed for the law,
claiming huge annual losses from Internet piracy. But scientists and
other academics opposed it, worrying that inadvertent violations in
such things as scientific journals could be criminalized.
Sponsored by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), the measure outlaws
willfully infringing a copyright for "commercial advantage or private
financial gain," and electronically distributing more than one copy
within 180 days of one or more copyrighted works (such as computer
programs or digital music files) that have a total retail value of more
The big difference from existing law is that the definition of
"financial gain" now includes the value of the copyrighted work itself.
The bill contains a sliding scale of penalties, depending on the
retail value of the copyrighted work.
For first offenses involving more than $1,000 in copyrighted goods but
less than $2,500, top penalties are a year in prison and a $100,000
fine. First offenses involving more than $2,500 in goods can be
punished by up to three years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Second offenses can be punished by up to six years in prison.
The measure also extends the statute of limitations on violations from
three years to five years.
The bill contains a protection for those who might accidentally
infringe the copyright of others: the mere fact that something was
copied is not sufficient to prove that the copyright was willfully
Don't ask what you can do for your country,
ask what your country can do for you. ...Megadeth
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