If youve ever used a peer-to-peer network and swapped copyrighted files, chances are pretty good youre guilty of a federal felony.
It doesnt matter if youve forsworn Napster, uninstalled Kazaa and now are eagerly padding the record industrys bottom line by snapping up $15.99 CDs by the cartload. Be warned--youre what prosecutors like to think of as an unindicted federal felon.
A obscure law called the No Electronic Theft (NET) Act which was signed into law in 1997 makes peer-to-peer (P2P) pirates liable for $250,000 in fines and subject to prison terms of up to three years.
Yet something strange is going on here. So far the Justice Department has made precisely zero prosecutions of peer-to-peer users under the NET Act. This odd delay is not because peer-to-peer piracy is legal. Its not. The NET Act covers people who willfully participate in the "reproduction or distribution" of copyrighted works without permission, when that activity is not covered by fair use rights.
The law even grants copyright holders the right to hand a "victim impact statement" to the judge at your trial, meaning you can expect an appearance from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) or the Business Software Alliance (BSA), depending on what kind of files were on your hard drive. Youll no longer have it, of course, because itll have been seized by the FBI, and youll be in jail.
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