• United States
by Ann Harrison

Democrats propose outlandish P2P bill

Jul 29, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Legislators seek to imprison and fine traders who upload a single piece of copyrighted material

In case there were any lingering questions as to how certain Democrats have been bought off by the entertainment industry, these legislators recently produced a handy proof of purchase in the shape of the Author, Consumer, and Computer Owner Protection and Security Act (ACCOPS).

This bill, supported by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, seeks to impose prison terms of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 on file traders who make available just one publicly accessible file without permission of the copyright holder.

Unlike the 1997 No Electronic Theft Act, which already outlaws unauthorized downloads, ACCOPS would allow file traders to be prosecuted without evidence that a copyrighted file was even downloaded or distributed. While most authorized music files are sold online for 99 cents, ACCOPS alleges that each publicly available file must have been copied at least 10 times and thus meets the 10 copy, $2,500 threshold for felonious copyright infringement in U.S. copyright law.

ACCOPS would also require those distributing certain search software or any application that “enables third parties to store data,” to warn downloaders that their technologies could present security or privacy risks under this bill. Those who fail to do so could serve up to six months in prison. A term of up to five years in prison could be imposed on anyone who provides false, or intentional fraudulent information while registering a domain name.

The ACCOPS bill even proposed a new form of copyright violation which would prosecute anyone who records a motion picture as it is being performed or displayed on a screen in a theater. Under ACCOPS, the Department of Justice would also be compelled to share with foreign governments the identities, locations, and software tools used by suspected copyright infringers. The bill would award the Justice Department an additional $15 million to prosecute copyright violations.

This proposed piece of legislation, which seeks to turn tens of millions of file traders into felons, was drafted by John Conyers (D-Mich.), the senior Democrat on the House judiciary committee. Other Democratic sponsors include Reps. Howard Berman (Calif.), Adam Schiff (Calif.), Marty Meehan (Mass.), Robert Wexler (Fla.) and Anthony Weiner (N.Y.).

In a statement accompanying the proposed legislation, Berman accused alleged copyright infringers of a dazzling array of crimes.  “These activities run the gamut from identity theft, distribution of child pornography, and unlicensed drug sales to stalking, fraud, trademark counterfeiting, and copyright piracy,” Berman wrote. “Law enforcement authorities need additional resources and statutory authority to effectively deal with this rash of online scams, crimes, and illegalities.”

No Republican has supported ACCOPS and it will never pass the House. But it will help illustrate just how over the top efforts to punish file traders have become, and continue to a shine light on the entertainment industry’s continuous attempts at checkbook democracy.