January 27, 2003
NET Act May Be Coming to You

Declan McCullah of Cnet recently wrote a piece on an obscure law called the No Electronic Theft Act (1997) which could be used soon by the Justice Department to prosecute P2P file sharing pirates. Several US Senators sent a letter last summer to the DOJ asking for this, but not much came of it. However, according to the article, the RIAA and the Business Software Alliance have been active with the DOJ in pursing this. Apparently there have already been some successful convictions using the NET Act, but not for P2P piracy. While the odds of being the test case are low, it may be that someone somewhere soon is the target. Of course, if this happens, the NET Act won't be obscure for long.

On a related note, a consortium of music sellers including Best Buy, Hastings Entertainment, Tower Records, Trans World Entertainment, Virgin Entertainment and Wherehouse Music has decided to collaborate to sell digital music online. So there may soon be better alternatives to P2P piracy on the way.

Posted by Mary Hodder at January 27, 2003 08:06 AM

This law will only target people who traffic a lot of music online. If you look at the law (or the amended 17 USC 506) you will notice the relevant parts of the text are:

(2) by the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of 1 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $1,000

That means you need to transfer 100 CDs in a 6 month period. When somebody is transferring that much music it is clear that it should not be considered 'fair use' and that it is piracy. Of course I think that this law targets the wrong people. It targets the supply side, not the demand side of P2P networks. If I have 1000 CDs that I have ripped into MP3 and people download them from me I am liable under this law. However if I download 1000 CDs in MP3 I am not liable. Somehow that seems backwards, it seems like the wrong people are being punished.

So there are problems with this law, but it cannot be used to target your average MP3 trader.

Posted by: Grant M. Henninger on January 27, 2003 12:37 PM
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