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'Pirate Act' Would Shift Copyright Civil Suits To DoJ 440

Posted by timothy
from the corrupts-absolutely dept.
mammothboy writes "News.com.com has a story about the new so-called Pirate Act, which seeks to allow federal prosecuters to file civil suits against file swappers. These lawsuits can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, and if you guessed that the RIAA is lobbying for it, you're right. What's scary is how fast and how quiet its march through the legislative process has been. In '97, the No Electronic Theft Act allowed for criminal lawsuits, but none have been filed, so isn't it clear that the Justice Department has better stuff to deal with?" There actually have been some prosecutions filed under the NET Act, but not many. Update: 05/26 18:51 GMT by T : Declan McCullagh (author of the linked News.com story) writes to clarify: "FYI there have been prosecutions under the NET Act, as you say. But there have not been any of P2P users. That's why the Senate is doing this."
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'Pirate Act' Would Shift Copyright Civil Suits To DoJ

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  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:12PM (#9259522) Homepage Journal

    As a member of Citizens United against Network Thievery, let me be the first to jump for joy. For too long musicians and movie moguls have resorted to smaller mansions, some with empty garage spots, as wanton piracy has hurt sales of their reasonably priced products. This rampant hooliganism must be stopp... ed.. whoa... what's this square of blotter paper doing in my coffee?
  • by havaloc (50551) * on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:14PM (#9259530) Homepage
    ...spent on arresting pirating grandmothers and children.
    • Isn't funding your own prosecution a bit of a conflict of interest?
    • by garcia (6573) * on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:19PM (#9259576) Homepage
      Remember where you money is going when you plunk down your cash for iTunes, CDs, or various other media formats when you are wanting to listen to RIAA controlled music.
      • by NanoGator (522640) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:33PM (#9259715) Homepage Journal
        "Remember where you money is going when you plunk down your cash for iTunes, CDs, or various other media formats when you are wanting to listen to RIAA controlled music. "

        The problem here is that the less people pay the RIAA, despite how blindingly obvious a boycott is, the higher the losses variable in the piracy #s go. Wanna send the RIAA a message? Pick a day, buy a bunch of new albums, and on the next day return them unopened and in resalable condition. When a million dollars is made, and lost the next day, it's hard for the retailers not to notice. Suddenly we have a powerful ally...
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:54PM (#9259933)
          The majority of people who lick up pop music are not capable of unified protest.
        • How about pick a day and purchase from independent labels with the message of "hey RIAA companies, we love music but you aint gettin' our money."
          • pick a day and purchase from independent labels

            By all means, do this too. Plenty of great music out there to choose from, given a bit of research. But it doesn't send the same message as buying an RIAA-sponsored CD then returning it. If all you do is buy from Indie labels, the RIAA will scream "lost sales due to piracy!" If you start bringing unopened discs back, on the other hand, they have to account for the sale and subsequent return.

        • by Simonetta (207550) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @02:29PM (#9260951)
          Wanna send the RIAA a message? Pick a day, buy a bunch of new albums, and on the next day return them unopened and in resalable condition.

          My understanding of the music biz is that in this type of situation, the retail price of the albums that are returned will be subtracted from the artist's royalities. So the only person receiveing a message are the musicians, who are learning that they should have never entered this line of work in the first place.

          You didn't seriously expect that the music industry would not have figured out a way to charge the musicians for EVERYTHING that would be a cost for the record companies, did you?

          The music industry is obsessed with the idea that they have the most desired product in the world (with the exception of refined opiates) and that everybody will do everything they can to get everything that they release. Therefore they must go to insane lengths to keep their product away from people except in small, measured, and expensive doses.

          To a large extent this is the truth, but it is becoming less so every year. Eventually, the music industry will reach the point where they realise that their extended efforts to prevent people's access to their product has resulted in a significant decline in the demand for their product. Threaten enough people with prison, asset confiscation, and criminal records for using your product and people will stop using your product, regardless of the price that you charge for it. Tastes can change. The music industry may find out that the obsession with possessing pre-recorded music on disks might be a characteristic only found in western baby-boomers. When they pass from the scene, so may their industry.

          I read that the music industry sales have fallen from 36 billion US dollars to 24 billion US in three years. That figure puts the entire business at less than South Korean prostitution (according to Asia Times -www.atimes.com) and almost as big as the toilet paper business. What other business this size gets special laws passed to put their customers in prison over pricing disagreements?
        • by Ryosen (234440) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @03:00PM (#9261225)
          Yes, by all means, let's hit the RIAA where they'll feel it the most: the RETAILERS. Let's really put the screws to the music labels by forcing the RETAILERS to lose millions of dollars on labor costs and credit card transaction fees. Let's force the RIAA to listen to our angered cries by clearing out the RETAILERS' inventories, making them re-order their stock, paying for rushed processing and delivery charges. Let us cheer in our new found victories while the RETAILERS have to sit on a pile of extra (NON-REFUNDABLE) inventory, costing them lost revenue and storage charges. Let's really fuck over the music industry by preventing RETAILERS from ordering new product, thereby causing their customers to stop coming into the store, since all that is on the shelves is old product. Hey, if we hit it on the right day of the month, we can even cause the RETAILER to pay thousands in extra sales/revenue tax thereby ensuring that they can't afford to do business anymore.

          Here's an idea: how about growing the fuck up and paying for your music and movies? How about not stealing things that don't belong to you? How about abandoning your rediculously naive and misguided notion that you are somehow entitled to free merchandise.?

          This is not a troll. I am a retailer. I own a brick-and-mortar retail store. *I* am the one who gets screwed when you do things like this. The products that I sell are part of my livelihood. All that you are going to accomplish from action like this is a reduction in the new products that I can afford to offer, a change in my return policy and you getting banned from my store. Returns are a courtesy extended to the public - they are not mandated by law. Abuse our goodwill and you will lose our goodwill.

          Protect your independant retailers. Don't listen to drivel like the parent's post.
          • by NanoGator (522640) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @03:25PM (#9261446) Homepage Journal
            "This is not a troll. I am a retailer. I own a brick-and-mortar retail store. "

            Yeah I knew I should have clarified my post. I'm sorry about that. I pictured that it be focused on a big retailer like Best Buy or some chain. The problem with spreading it across retailers like yourself, besides hurting the wrong place, is that it's a lot harder to track the actual #. Again, I'm sorry about not clarifying this in my previous post.

            So I've apologized for my error. This is the last of the apologies in this post, now it's your turn to listen:

            "Hey, if we hit it on the right day of the month, we can even cause the RETAILER to pay thousands in extra sales/revenue tax thereby ensuring that they can't afford to do business anymore."

            You need satisfied customers in order to make money. Think about that before you get nasty with anybody for wanting the business to be fair. You guys are on the front lines. You face the boycotts. You face the civil disobedience. You have your pitchfork aimed in the wrong direction.

            "Here's an idea: how about growing the fuck up and paying for your music and movies? How about not stealing things that don't belong to you? How about abandoning your rediculously naive and misguided notion that you are somehow entitled to free merchandise.?"

            You just called an innocent man a thief, you fucking asshole. You run a business dependent on customers buying the stuff you're selling, but you're calling those same customers thieves? Whose fault is it if you go out of business?

            Worse, the very fact that you think this is about getting something for nothing means you haven't even listened to your customers. (I'll give you a hint, it's not about getting music for free...) That's yet another nail in your own coffin. We give you money, not the RIAA.

            " All that you are going to accomplish from action like this is a reduction in the new products that I can afford to offer.."

            That's all you think? Proving a lot of money is at stake isn't going to shift attention to the right direction? You called me naieve?

            " Abuse our goodwill and you will lose our goodwill."

            You just called me a thief, and you don't understand what my views are. Don't preach to me about earning your good will.

            "Protect your independant retailers. Don't listen to drivel like the parent's post. "

            Protect your revenue, listen to your customers.

          • "Protect your independant retailers. Don't listen to drivel like the parent's post."

            So, how do you feel if its Walmart - who incidentally have enough retail clout to take the point being made at their expense, and shove it back down the RIAA's throat?!

          • Here's an idea: how about growing the fuck up and paying for your music and movies? How about not stealing things that don't belong to you? How about abandoning your rediculously naive and misguided notion that you are somehow entitled to free merchandise.?

            Hilary? Is that you?

            Simply adding a "y" to your last name isn't enough to fool us...
    • by Stargoat (658863) <stargoat@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:36PM (#9259750) Journal
      It figures that Orrin Hatch is one of the sponsers. The Republican from Utah has been doing this stuff for years now. The guy thinks he is a musician, and is worried that pirating music could hurt other musicians. Last year, Orrin Hatch was the jackass who advocated developing technology to destroy the computers of people who download music. It was one of Hatch's staffer's who broke into a democrat's computer and read his docs. Hatch himself was found to have pirated some software a while back as well to host his website.

      Hatch's boy is one of the lawyers for the SCO. No surprise there. Daddy's just trying to make the laws for his baby boy to enforce.

      Call your senators (you have two) and tell them to oppose this bill. If you don't know who they are, go here to find out [senate.gov].

      • by srleffler (721400) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @01:16PM (#9260172)
        Call your senators (you have two) and tell them to oppose this bill.

        Better still, write to your senators (on paper) and tell them to oppose this bill, and why. Politicians place greater emphasis on number of letters received from their constituents than they do on number of phone calls or emails.

        • by Stephen Samuel (106962) <samuel AT bcgreen DOT com> on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @01:32PM (#9260360) Homepage Journal
          There is far better to do than just write a stinkin' letter.

          Spend a couple of hours (or a few dollars) supporting a politician who isn't (or won't be) voting for these stinking bills. Make sure that they know why you're donating your money and time. Make it an election issue when they have callins and/or town hall meetings.

          If you live in/near Hatch, then make sure to spend some time supportint his rival. If you don't feel free to send money.

          Look for innovative ways to support an anti-RIAA politician.

          It won't just affect the RIIA. It's a really good way to generate good contacts for other issues -- It's also a good way to meet people (including of the romantic persuasion -- I've actualy ended up going out with a couple of people I'v met thru my political work, and I consider myself pretty clueless at that game.)

          If everybody on slashdot spent 3 hours (or $100) on this, it would make the Rifle Association look like chicken scratch.

          It's a little bit of time and/or resources that could make a big difference in the next few years -- especially given that these people are still looking at passing this legislation.

      • Your comment just made me think of something funny. The biggest filesharing system in use by Windows users is probably currently Kazaa. They may not have an actual law in place for destroying computers of filesharers, but just being on the Kazaa network seems to do the trick. Toss in some spyware and the random virus you get from the network, and Windows users everywhere are raped.

        Windows IS the destructive system for filesharing. Sad, yet eerily true.
    • Here's an idea... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by goldspider (445116)
      STOP ILLEGALLY DOWNLOADING MUSIC YOU HAVEN'T PAID FOR!

      And don't feed me that line of bullshit that you (or your 'friends') download music to protest/boycott the RIAA.

      A real boycott would mean that you don't buy, download, or in any other way consume their product. That tells the RIAA that as long as they keep up with their nonsense, you don't want their product.

      On the other hand, when you download music you haven't paid for, all you're saying is that no matter what the RIAA does, you still want their

      • by CashCarSTAR (548853) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @02:22PM (#9260884)
        To be honest, in the long run it doesn't matter what the hell you do..

        They're just going to assume that their lost sales went to piracy, regardless of the reality of the situation.

        I'll agree. Taking shit for free that isn't free is unethical. However, I don't see anything unethical about surfing P2P sites for new music to enjoy and go out to purchase when you find stuff you do.

        The RIAA is actually more concerned about marketshare than piracy. The big concern is that non-RIAA acts will get equal promotion time as RIAA acts.

        The real fear is that in the near future, the next Elvis, the next Beatles, the next U2, will be some person/group in their bedroom using a small computer studio to crank out great tunes, but doesn't want anything more than enough donations to keep them in rent/pizzas. They don't want the fame, don't want the admiration. They just want the music.

        The model is there, and believe it or not, it does work. That's what the RIAA is afraid of, and why they're trying to get everything redirected through approved sources. Meaning things that you need to be signed with one of their labels in order to get exposure.

      • I don't download any music I don't have the rights to, but I certainly enjoy my right to rip my LEGALLY PURCHASED cds to MP3 for use on my MP3 player and home network. I also have used P2P services to get replacement tracks for a couple older legally purchased CDs that were scratched beyond repair. Last time I checked, I was well within the bounds of "fair use"... For now.

        Between the RIAA pushing DRM tech and their attack on my "legitimate" product replacement scheme, it's easy to see why I resent them. You

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:15PM (#9259541)
    Copyrights have to be asserted in order to be infringed upon. Therefore, the Justice Department can't just go accusing people of copyright violation without the copyright owner coming forward to claim the foul.

    This is nothing more than the RIAA wanting to shift their legal burden over to the taxpayer...
    • by The Importance of (529734) * on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:28PM (#9259670) Homepage
      The RIAA gets a lot more out of it than saving money on lawsuits. See, PIRATE Act Reveals Sen. Hatch as Strange Ally of Pornography Industry [corante.com] and PIRATE Act - Wiretaps for Civil Copyright Infringement? [corante.com].
    • Not quite. (Score:3, Informative)

      by aidoneus (74503)
      What you're thinking of is trademark, not copyright. Since the mid-1970s (in the US) copyright has existed for a creative work from the moment of its creation. No assertation is necessary nor is any registration (although registration may help in any legal conflicts).

      So no, copyrights do not need to be asserted for infringement to occur.

      -jason
      • Re:Not quite. (Score:4, Informative)

        by Nixoloco (675549) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @01:00PM (#9259990)
        I don't think he is suggesting that the copyright beomes invalid if not enforced. He is just stating that the copyright holder has to be a party to its enforcement in order to support charges of infringement.

        He is just making a very good point, that this is just to get the DoJ to pay for the RIAA's legal bills. The DoJ will just be able to bring charges on behalf of the RIAA (copyright holders).

        How exactly does this benefit taxpayers?

    • by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:45PM (#9259849) Homepage
      I think that you are confusing trademark and copyright. One has to vigorously defend a trademark, or it's lost. Copyright does not require defense; published works are automatically copyrighted, and although the owner may seek restitution, he does not have to do so to maintain the copyright.

      If he so wishes, under this new law, Ashcroft can prosecute at will. If he wants to be a dick about it, he can do it without bothering to consult with the copyright holder. Hell, even if the holder decides to release the disputed work into the public domain, Ashcroft could still prosecute the "thief" under the "the Law is the Law" clause of reactionary lore -- the work was copyrighted at the time of the "crime", so the wishes of the holder would be irrelevant.

      This is the final stage in the criminalization of what once was a civil offense, if it was an offense at all -- copying a musical work. It used to be criminal if it were done for profit. Now it will be criminal whenever the AG wants to nail someone.

      The Church of Scientology is turning cartwheels right now. This has been their pet evil project since the early ninties. They will get to file FEDERAL CRIMINAL CHARGES against people who quote Hubbard's works about the great galactic federation and the atom bombs and the volcanoes. (Hell, I can't even say the "X" word, because the owners of Slashdot will pull my post if the COS says "boo!") This isn't a digression: they have instigated this crusade from '91 to the present day, ever since their flying saucer religion got outed on anon.penet.fi and up to the present day.

      And as for Ashcroft and the Justice Department: what an incredible tool for harrassment. Political enemy? Check the ISP logs, see if the Enemy of the State or a member of his family ever downloaded music. Break his financial back, put him or his own in prison. How many people have downloaded tunes? How many are eligible for Club Fed if this law gets passed? If you ever hose some public official, you can spend years dreading the email summoning you to years of court-run hell because you hosted some Guess Who tracks in '02.

      Damn, if only we could take over a country somewhere and declare freedom from the Berne Convention...

      • if you ever hose some public official, you can spend years dreading the email summoning you to years of court-run hell because you hosted some Guess Who tracks in '02. Statute of limitations is 3 years. However, you still pain a grim picture. One thing I'm curious, though, is: Wouldn't the DOJ start up their own suits at their own pace? Not at the RIAA's pace? In other words, even though this has been the pet project of Scientology, that doens't mean the DOJ will suddenly start filing suits on behalf of t
        • Wouldn't the DOJ start up their own suits at their own pace? Not at the RIAA's pace?

          Who is to say that the DOJ's pace would not be faster? Seriously, the more court cases they bring the more they can look like they are "tough on crime" and make the arguement that they need larger budgets, more staff, etc. Even leaving aside the other problems with having the DOJ running civil suits on behalf of others, I don't want the bureaucratic bloat this will cause.

  • by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:15PM (#9259547) Homepage
    Here, if you are a large company, then you can have the government file a civil lawsuit for you, recover money and give it to you, and if they lose the government pays your legal fees. If you are an individual that a large company pirates your copyrighted matterial, you have to pay the lawyer yourself, then if you lose you have to pay their legal fees.


    Yep, seems fair to me.


    Maybe the money recovered for the copyright lawsuit filed by the government should go to the government, and if the government loses, the RIAA/MPAA should pay the government's costs?

  • by Newer Guy (520108) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:16PM (#9259552)
    Yep...that's what we have.. and will continue to have until people exercise their responsibility and vote all the scoundrels out!
    • by pjt33 (739471) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @01:01PM (#9260010)
      vote all the scoundrels out!
      You have "None of the Above" as an option in your ballot?
    • by JavaLord (680960) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @01:23PM (#9260260) Journal
      Yep...that's what we have.. and will continue to have until people exercise their responsibility and vote all the scoundrels out!

      I'm not big on kookiness, or conspiracy theories, but the two major parties are conspiring even if it's informally to keep third parties out of majority elections. In 1992 Ross Perot captured 19 percent of the vote and participated in the highest rated presidential debate of all time [debates.org]. After Perot's preformance in 1992, the Republicans and Democrats conspired to not include Perot in 1996. [fair.org] Clinton's aid, George Stephanopolous said:

      STEPHANOPOLOUS: "[The Dole campaign] didn't have leverage going into negotiations. They were behind. They needed to make sure Perot wasn't in it. As long as we would agree to Perot not being in it, we could get everything else we wanted going in. We got our time frame, we got our length, we got our moderator."

      In 2000 it was announced that candidates wouldn't be allowed in the elections unless they were polling at 15% of the vote ahead of time. Such a threshold would have barred Perot from the 1992 debates (he finished with 19 percent of the vote), and would have excluded Reform candidate Jesse Ventura from the 1998 gubernatorial debates in Minnesota (at 10 percent in polls before the debates, he won the election with 37 percent).

      While this has strayed off topic a bit, how can you expect not to have laws against the will of the people when the people are no longer in control of who they can vote for? Politicians do their best to make the Republicans and Democrats look different, and they are on social issues, but surely not on economic issues despite what some democrats and republicans might think. They both spend carelessly, and support big business. As long as these people are in power, you will have crap like the RIAA getting free lawsuits going on.
  • Crowded Courts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Analise (782932) * <anaili@ g m a il.com> on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:16PM (#9259555) Homepage Journal
    Aren't the courts crowded enough as it is? Why make more work for the courts/government? I mean, honestly, there're enough useless/pointless civil cases out there right now, we don't exactly need -more-. And it just seems that if the Justice Dept really wanted to go after music piracy, they ought to do it through criminal courts and leave the civil courts to, well, the RIAA to sue people. How would the Justice Dept sue for damages anyway? Did I miss something in that article? And since when does the legislature ever move that quickly on something?
  • Double fucked... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by garcia (6573) * on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:16PM (#9259562) Homepage
    Critics also charge that the Pirate Act may invent a form of double jeopardy: It would let the RIAA sue the same people already sued by the Justice Department.

    "The kinds of things we have a double-jeopardy doctrine to prevent seem to be implicated by the bill," said Jessica Litman, author of "Digital Copyright" and a law professor at Wayne State University. "I find it disturbing that the committee reported this out without at least having a hearing to consider some of the alternatives."


    Not only do they want the same taxpayers who pay for the prosecution of these people they also have the ablility to resue the same people after the DoJ is done with them.

    This isn't a deterrent... It's just going to piss everyone off.
    • Re:Double fucked... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Lord Kano (13027) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:30PM (#9259691) Homepage Journal
      From the 5th Amendment.

      " nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb;"

      Your money is neither your life nor your limb. Like it or not Double Jeopardy is only for criminal prosecution.

      LK
      • by KarmaMB84 (743001)
        That's exactly how they screwed OJ. Criminal court found him not guilty but a civil court found him "responsible" (guilty).
  • by Hangtime (19526) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:17PM (#9259565) Homepage
    I will be sending faxes to my senators detailing my opposition to this proposed law. If I am not mistaken Hatch tried to backdoor the last one or these too a few years back.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:18PM (#9259567)
    a civil suit is by preponderance of evidence,
    a criminal suit is beyond reasonable doubt.

    civil suit is *much* easier to 'win'
    that's how the bastar^h^h^h^hlawyers are getting rich...
    • by Ieshan (409693) <ieshan@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:24PM (#9259630) Homepage Journal
      Although, it'll be much more difficult to prove damages in a Civil Suit, since it's nearly impossible to link a single individual copying mp3s to any financial loss incurred by the company.
      • by praksys (246544) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:53PM (#9259918) Homepage
        Under current law there is no need to show damages in a copyright infringement suit. Copyright owners are automatically entitled to "statutory" damages if they can prove infringement.

        Take a look here [gigalaw.com].

        There is a great deal of "wiggle room" with respect to what the court "considers just," and in 1999, Congress increased the amounts. In cases in which the plaintiff cannot prove that the infringement was "willful," the Copyright Act allows a sum of "not less than $750 or more than $30,000" per infringement. However, if the court finds that the defendant's behavior was "willful," the court has discretion "to increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000" per infringement.


        So that is a minimum of $750 for every instance of infringment, even if it was not willful (i.e. even if you did not realise that you were infringing). That should give you some idea of why the people getting sued by the RIAA are all caving so easily. Even at $750 per mp3 (if they are lucky) the statutory damages can add up real fast.
  • by millahtime (710421) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:18PM (#9259568) Homepage Journal
    So, this is saying that there is a law out there file swappers could be prossecuted under. But, the RIAA is trying to get a law passed specific to their cause and what they want as an ends.
  • Arrr! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rhesus Piece (764852) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:21PM (#9259599)
    Being a swashbuckler myself, I find the name
    "Pirate Act" to be highly inaccurate.

    It's copyright infringement.
    Piracy is a different matter altogether.
    Anybody can download a song, but it takes
    quite a bit more daring to pilage at a professional
    level.

    Arrr.
    • Re:Arrr! (Score:3, Funny)

      by kabocox (199019)
      Anybody can download a song, but it takes
      quite a bit more daring to pilage at a professional
      level.


      They all end up in elected government offices.
  • Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by greywar (640908) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:21PM (#9259602) Journal
    OK, so now a group of companys that have been found to run a business selling overpriced plastic with artificially high pricing is now trying to get the govt to handle prosecuting their civil matters. I can't imagine this getting passed. However many futurests predict a future controlled by large corporations. This would be a good first step.
  • Great, MORE laws (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JBMcB (73720) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:23PM (#9259613)
    Just what we need. The DOJ must have TONS of resources left over from finding terrorists, rapists, murderers, drug smuggling rings, human smuggling rings, organized crime, white-collar fraud, embezzlers, etc... etc...

    This should *clearly* be left a civil matter. Stealing is already illegal. Piracy is already illegal. It should NOT be a federal offence to share a file, even if it is copyrighted. There are plenty of civil remidies for copyright holders already.

    From causal perusal, and IANAL, at least 30% of the US code should be ditched. There's a lot of redundant, unenforcable bloatlaw in there.
    • by praksys (246544)
      There are plenty of civil remidies for copyright holders already.

      Hmm... Well there are a lot of people who think that copyright is doomed because in this digital age there is no way to stop copyright infringement. But isn't that just another way of saying that there are no effective remedies for copyright holders?

      I think it would be more plausible to argue that this new measure will be just as futile as existing measures, rather than trying to argue that existing measures are already effective.

      There's
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:24PM (#9259626) Homepage
    The article reads like a story from the Onion. I love this quote, "copyright owners have been left alone to fend for themselves, defending their rights only where they can afford to do so."

    Yeah, the members of the RIAA are just too broke to file their own lawsuits.

    And if these civil suits are so easy to win, then why are the RIAA not filing them. It sounds like easy money to me. Heck, suing filesharers could become a new business model.

    • by HBI (604924) <kparadine AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:31PM (#9259700) Homepage Journal
      This isn't about money, this is about public perception.

      The goal of this strategy is to convince the people that music costs money. The way to do that, after the file sharing splurge of the past 5-7 years, is to make it criminal. The problem with that is the high burden of proof required by standards of criminal law.

      If the RIAA sues people, it sends a completely different message - one of greed, which is being actively capitalized upon by certain anti-RIAA segments of society.

      This bill puts Federal prosecutors in charge of the filing of the civil suits, making it look like a government action. It's fairly nifty. If this passes, file sharing in the US will die, mostly because of the deterrent factor of having the government enforce it.

      This is odious law, though. It needs to be stopped. I might even write a letter, though my state has two scumbag Democrat rich men (Lautenberg and Corzine) as senators - they're probably bought and paid for by Hollywood already.
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:25PM (#9259634) Journal
    Considering people are not making any money from file sharing, I'd have thought that a fine of something like $100, would be more than adequate as a deterrent.

    It would stop the record industry looking like violent thugs, and people who genuinely feel they've been wronfully accused wouldn't have too much to lose if they wanted to challenge this. The record companies are not doing their cause a lot of good with aggressive penalties against ordinary members of the public.
  • Oh, Orrin... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dhakbar (783117) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:25PM (#9259642)
    "Tens of thousands of continuing civil enforcement actions might be needed to generate the necessary deterrence," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said when announcing his support for the bill. "I doubt that any nongovernmental organization has the resources or moral authority to pursue such a campaign." As always, they're looking for the "necessary deterrence" to stop a widespread cultural shift that has already occurred. Much like the war on drugs, this war on piracy is going to end up costing the tax payer more money, infringing upon non-infringing citizens, and lining the pockets of those in government who perpetuate heavy-handed methods of dealing with petty crimes. This nation doesn't want or need another war on drugs. It just doesn't benefit the majority.
  • by Illserve (56215) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:27PM (#9259653)
    The RIAA hammering through thousands of hundreds of thousands of court cases.

    Meanwhile we are hard pressed to give rape & murder cases adequate attention.

    On the other hand, guess all those new lawyers need something to do.

  • by SuperficialRhyme (731757) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:29PM (#9259673) Homepage
    I don't use p2p to transfer copyrighted material and this legislation still bothers me. Why is the federal government enforcing copyright? Because the music industry doesn't have the money to pay for it? The gvmt is currently running a large deficit. What makes the gvmt (and thus taxpayers) more able to pay than the **AA. People always think money from the federal government is free and available but our taxes are the money that pays for stuff like this. Where is the fiscal restraint in washington. (The sad thing is... that last line might get me modded funny). Contact your reps/senators and let them know that copyright infringement suits over p2p trading are not the government's burden. Even if it were filing suits over any type of copyright infringement (which would actually help the little guy more - when his source code is stolen by a large company/etc) I still don't feel it's the government's place.
  • by Beg4Mercy (32808) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:30PM (#9259688)
    I know that people have settled, but has anyone actually prepared a defense and went to court? How did it turn out?
  • by Cytlid (95255) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:31PM (#9259698)
    1. Convince all the software manufacturers in the country that they need someone to manage their industry.

    2. Become president of the SIAA (Software Inudstry Association of America).

    3. ???

    4. Profit!!!

    I think #3 has something to do with lawsuits...
    • Re:My business plan (Score:3, Informative)

      by el_gordo101 (643167)

      1. Convince all the software manufacturers in the country that they need someone to manage their industry.

      We already have the BSA [bsa.org] to take care of this...
  • Oh Wonderful =\ (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Judg3 (88435) <jeremy AT pavleck DOT com> on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:32PM (#9259713) Homepage Journal
    Allowing people to be prosecuted in a civil trial for file swapping is a bad bad thing.

    For a criminal trial, the prosecution has to prove to a jury that you stole music beyond a reasonable doubt.

    In a civil trial, all you have to prove is that it's possible and probable that you did it.

    So it's basically taking out all the expenses that a criminal trial would have needed. There's no need to do any computer forensics, deep investigating, etc. All they would need to do (basically) is get your ISP records and show you have used *file sharing program*.

    So it's very possible that you might have installed Kazaa, et al, to download a new game demo, OSS, independent 'free' music, etc - but if you have a NOFX mp3 on your drive that alone is enough to get some money out of you. If this thing flies, I fear the power RIAA will have. They will truly become a company to fear.
    • Re:Oh Wonderful =\ (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HolyCoitus (658601)
      They're avoiding criminal trials, because at that point it would bring in a jury, as you said. Which also brings in jury nullification. [fija.org] They don't want to open that can of worms. The United States becoming aware of that again would certainly spell the doom of a lot of the stupid laws they prosecute people on right now.
  • by The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:36PM (#9259749)
    ...be sure to drop a note to Rep. Rick Boucher! He has consistently been one of the few (and by few, I mean only) politicians who isn't totally in the pocket of the RIAA and their ilk. (cough cough... Orrin Hatch... cough cough) He recognizes the rights of copyright holders to make a fair buck off their work, but he also draws a damned firm line on the rights of citizens to control the things they've paid for. And if you're not in Virginia, he'll still listen to your opinions. It's about time we started paying attention to the pols who *haven't* been bought and paid for yet.

    http://www.house.gov/boucher/

    (Having been raised Mormon, I also have a lot of other reasons to bitch about Hatch, but I'll save that for later. That whole state is run by asshats.)

  • by Aiua (688192) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:37PM (#9259763)
    I was outraged after reading this article that Senator Hatch (the senator from my home state) would sponser this bill. So, I went to his website and proceeded to send him a professional e-mail stating my concerns on the bill while asking him to withdraw his support and sponsership. My question to everyone else in the US: have you contacted your senator?
  • PRON (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crackshoe (751995) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:39PM (#9259780)
    Alright. SO, you know a big part of P2P traffic is porn - porn that is almost without a doubt copyrighted, but most Porn companies don't go out of their way to track down pirates (or at least joe average light downloader). If the porno industry no longer has to expend their own money or effort to crack down on copyright violators, don't you think they'd start? Pornographic copyright violations and investigations could, as i see it, drown out all the RIAA efforts by shear volume.
    • Re:PRON (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dun Malg (230075)
      Alright. SO, you know a big part of P2P traffic is porn - porn that is almost without a doubt copyrighted, but most Porn companies don't go out of their way to track down pirates (or at least joe average light downloader). If the porno industry no longer has to expend their own money or effort to crack down on copyright violators, don't you think they'd start? Pornographic copyright violations and investigations could, as i see it, drown out all the RIAA efforts by shear volume.

      The porn industry understan

  • by pyros (61399) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:40PM (#9259788) Journal
    I've been sitting on my 1000th post (I'm such a nerd) for a while now, waiting for a good opportunity for a 5, Funny. But I just haven't been able to take the time to really put something good together.

    So anyway, if you're in the U.S., write to your Senators. Tell them about your concerns about having your taxes spent on government officials pursuing civil suits on behalf of the RIAA. Point out the unconstitutionality of double jeopardy.

    And while we're talking about senators, does anyone else think it would be a good idea to have senators in federal congress be the party leaders from the state congress? That would be a big step in going back to a republic of states (Assuming you're a propponent of states rights). It'd be kinda neat to replace the house that way too, but I can't think of a good way to do it with the current representation by population that we currently have in the house (which I think is a good thing). Something where voters elect our state government, and the president, and the federal congressional reps are a subset of the elected state reps. I think that would be really cool.
  • by happyfrogcow (708359) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:42PM (#9259814)
    FALAFEL:

    Federal Assistance for Limiting the use of Acronyms For Evil Legislation.
  • And there we go again... Apart from the fact that I find the influence that big industries have on the justice system in the US nauseating, the music industry seems to think that it can "stop" swapping in any way. This is typical black and white thinking

    What is actually happening here is that the "system" (in this case the swappers and the music industry together) shift to a new equilibrium location, where the trade-off between speed and ease-of-use on the one hand, and speed on the other hand, is optimal for the given situation on the legal battle-field.

    First we had Napster: very easy to use, but having the flaw of a single point of failure. Then we had the FastTrack and Gnutella networks (think KaZaa and LimeWire here): good bandwidth, but no anonymity at all, but at least without the need for a single point of failure. Then came eDonkey and his friends: less bandwidth, more obfuscation. A step further along the line lies FreeNet: anonimity beyond reasonable doubt, but a slow network and it's hard to find things. In the future, the balance might shift even further to the side of obfuscation, encryption and low bandwidth.

    Now before you start yelling: "But FreeNet doesn't work!". Think again: Since about mid-May, it works well again! Try it!

    So: go to their website [freenetproject.org] and download that client! Happy browsing!

    • How does FreeNet work, though? Is it possible to see what's being traded on it?

      All you need to do in a civil trial is prove that it's probable that the person commited an illegal act. So if it's possible to prove that FreeNet is mostly used for pirating copyrighted works, and that someone has used FreeNet to transfer xMB worth of material, wouldn't it be possible to sue them in a civil suit?

      I'm not sure FreeNet is really a 100% safe solution. Simply using it may be enough to allow you to be sued for

      • Freenet (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ControlFreal (661231) *

        Freenet is an encrypted P2P network where information is not stored at fixed locations: nodes exchange "keys" (information bits) all the time, and in this way "popular" information stays alive while non-used information gradually fades away.

        Since every connection between a different pair of nodes is encrypted using different keys, it would be very hard to use traffic-analysis to find out what somebody is sending. To make matters even better: even you don't know what your node stores; it's all encrypted. T

  • by Luminari (689987) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:45PM (#9259845)
    Finally jumped the shark.
  • by Quinn_Inuit (760445) <Quinn_Inuit AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:46PM (#9259853)

    Ok, first Ashcroft wants to tackle porn (link [slashdot.org]), then they want the DOJ to go after file swappers?

    This is one of the biggest reasons Bush's continued 9/11 references make me ill. I could deal with it if they were actually working to fight terror. Instead, every time somebody waves the bloody shirt, all we get is some tired propaganda for drilling in the Arctic, a Federal Marriage Amendment, tax cuts for the wealthy, or some other thing we have to do to keep the terrorists from winning. Meanwhile, Homeland Security isn't getting the funds it needs for simple, basic port (seaport, not computer port) scanners: link [businessweek.com] (found on Instapundit [instapundit.com]).

    I'm a hawk on security, folks. A hard-core, let's get them before they get us, serious hawk. And I'm voting against Bush and his idiots for precisely that reason.

    (Sorry for the rant, but I just couldn't take it any more. Feel free to mod this down.)

  • by hoffmang (174358) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:50PM (#9259887)
    Right there, way before the first ammendment, is the delegation of power to the federal government to enforce copyrights.

    For all those people posting copyrighted material that they know full well is illegal to post which alternative is better? Criminal prosecution or civil liability? I think this makes the punishment far closer fit the crime.

    Why Justice? Because that's the law enforcement arm of the federal government. This is an improvement to the NET act, not an extension.
  • by overshoot (39700) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:55PM (#9259949)
    that the Feds would have the power to get wiretaps. They get the wiretaps, they do the legal legwork, and then if the victim has a bean the RIAA files its own suit and sucks the victim dry with most of the work being done at taxpayer expense.
  • American Whoredom (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TempusMagus (723668) * on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:56PM (#9259956) Homepage Journal
    We don't have liberals or conservatives running this country. We basically have corporate lackeys with two different marketing campaigns. Correct me if I'm wrong, but according to conservatives isnt the 'invisible hand' of competition supposed to be a self-regulating force that works best without government intervention?

    Why is it that conservatives stop being conservative when large corporations want things to go their way in defiance of the wishes of the marketplace (such as file sharing)? Someone help me out here.
    • by JBMcB (73720) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @01:13PM (#9260120)
      False Assumptions:

      1. Republicans are for less government.
      Regan authorized spending on an A$$LOAD of money in the 80's. Remember, Congress spends money, the President just authorizes it. Heck, just about every Republican president in the last 30 years spent more money than the last.

      2. Democrats are for corporate responsibility
      Except for those companies who pay their bills. The Pirate Act is sponsored by Patrick Leahy (D. VT)

      It's simple, if you want less government control:
      http://www.lp.org/

      If you want more,
      http://www.gp.org/
      http://sp-usa.org/
      (To ns more. Lots of people like government regulation it seems. Sigh.)
      • Remember, Congress spends money, the President just authorizes it.
        Uh, no. Congress appropriates money. The President (really the executive branch) spends it. In fact, the Supreme Court has said the President must spend it (as opposed to impounding funds for programs the given President doesn't like.)
    • Correct me if I'm wrong, but according to conservatives isnt the 'invisible hand' of competition supposed to be a self-regulating force that works best without government intervention?

      No that's liberalism a philosophy that seemed radical in the eighteenth century and so was mindlessly opposed by the conservatives of the period. Now in the early twentyfirst century such nonsense is just tired old dogma and part of the dominant ideology which means it is fervently and mindlessly promoted by the conservati

  • by t_allardyce (48447) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:57PM (#9259958) Journal
    I dont give a shit about all these "you cant just ignore one crime because you have some others to deal with" arguments, filesharing should be the least priority on the governments list: catch people who want to blow things up and post anthrax, mass-murderers, punk shit-heads with guns who think they can go around in their stupid gangs shooting people for standing in the way, rapists, pedophiles, muggers, burglers and fraudsters and pirates who actually SELL things with big racks of cd-burners! Then, and only when these other crimes have dropped to a semi reasonable rate should you move on to kazaa users. The court-system has only so-much capacity.
  • More pain... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by locarecords.com (601843) <david@locarecOOO ... inus threevowels> on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:59PM (#9259977) Homepage Journal
    Slowly from numerous angles the possibilities of the use and re-use of media is being closed down. This legislation will no doubt help *anyone* wishing to stop copyright issues and can be used to close down freedom of speech.

    Instead of innovating past these problems the record label's are effectively allowing the state to mantain their monopoly for them... expect more legislation and more erosion of civil rights just to keep them fat and happy...

  • by jubei (89485) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:59PM (#9259981)
    If the DOJ initiates the civil suit, it stands to reason that should keep any damages and put them toward the good of the public.

    That doesn't make sense? Neither does someone other than the copyright holder initiating the civil suit. The damaged party should seek its own reparations.
  • by jstockdale (258118) * on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @01:02PM (#9260020) Homepage Journal
    Gotta love a great example of Government by the people, for the people. Democracy at it's finest.

    *looks around*

    I mean it's not like this is a corporate tool to get our tax dollars to work against us.

    *cough*

    I mean it kinda is, but what can we do.

    *wimper*

    Yeah it is, damnit, I can't believe this. How can corporations be allowed to do this!?!

    *arrrggg*

    God damnit this is rediculous. What happened to the Republic that once was!!! ... Orwell was wrong! 1984, that's a typo man. This cannot stand! I mean what next? Will they start attacking free speech-^%

    [NO CARRIER]

    Today's episode brought to you by the PATRIOT Act, in conjunction with the letters F, U, C, K, E, and D.
  • by infiniti99 (219973) <justin@affinix.com> on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @01:06PM (#9260050) Homepage
    I remember back when the file sharing networks were being attacked by the RIAA, it was common for people to post here and say that the programs and networks are just tools that can be used for good or evil. Thus, the networks are innocent and the RIAA should really be going after the actual traders. Well, now they are. So what's all this fuss about?
  • DMCA them (Score:3, Funny)

    by C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @01:28PM (#9260321) Journal
    it's be a wellcome irony use the law RIAA/MPAA bought against them.

    1- create an encripted P2P network
    2- make sure it's easy to decrypt
    3- create a user licence saying that if you're DOJ/RIAA/MPAA you can't decrypt
    4- wait for them do break in and tap the network
    5- sue their ass based on DMCA
    6- profit
    • Re:DMCA them (Score:3, Informative)

      by OldMiner (589872)

      Call me a fool for responding here. Maybe you were intending to be silly, and the people who modded you up as Funny saw it right. But, let's be clear: this is a terrible idea.

      Even if the network were broken into, the DMCA covers copyright law which is a civil matter. You acknolwedge this by saying 'sue' them. But then you would invite criminal charges being filed against you under the aforementioned NET act. You sue them, they charge you. And, once more, the original copyright owners also still have

  • by Lewis Daggart (539805) <jonboze@PERIODgmail.com minus punct> on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @01:46PM (#9260487) Journal
    It is not surprising at ALL how quietly this has been moving through he legeslation process. Think about it.

    The RIAA raises quite a large stink with its inflated numbers and its skewed version of theft and piracy. Practically everyone in the US knows about their fight to stop file sharing.

    How many congressmen do you suppose have heard of the RIAA? Great, now how many of those congressmen do you suppose read slashdot?

    The problem here is the same problem Linux faces against Microsoft - marketing. We're all pleased that IBM is now marketing linux when the truth is, Linux needs to be marketing itself. We have the same problem here with the RIAA.

    We have RIAA lobyists, but who's out there publically lobying against them? So far, all the mainstream voting population has heard is that file trading is evil. They don't know that there IS an alternative to RIAA action. For all they know, thats our justice system at work.

    As many readers as slashdot has, or tech-zines or webblogs, what we really need to do is get Average Joe to know what the heck's going on.

    Microsoft's already shown us that the quality of a product doesnt matter if you only hear about it form the competetors viewpoint. The same is true of competing ideas.
  • by adept256 (732470) on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @02:11PM (#9260740)
    Something just occurred to me; could a publisher accidentally leak (purposely distribute) their copyrighted material on a P2P network and wait for people to entrap themselves by downloading it? ... I don't usually do cliches but here goes ...

    1. 'Accidentally' leak your music.
    2. Sue everyone who downloads it. The government pays for the lawsuits.
    3. Profit!
  • Senator Cantwell:

    I am seriously concerned about S.2237, and the effects that it will have.

    Generally, the difference between a Civil action and a Criminal action, besides the level of punishment, is that the Government brings criminal actions (because they are considered offenses against society), and the offended person or persons bring civil actions. S.2237 changes this balance by having the Federal Government bring civil actions in cases where the Federal Government is not the offended party.

    This leads to a large inequity here. In criminal cases, government-paid lawyers represent defendants who want but can't afford an attorney. However, parties in civil cases usually have to represent themselves or pay for their own lawyers.

    Thus, this bill has the effect of shifting the costs of prosecuting civil cases from the plaintiffs (the RIAA or Copyright holders in this case) to the Federal government, while leaving the costs of defending the cases with the defendent. Besides being inequitable, this also has the appearance of 'Corporate Welfare'.

    I am strongly opposed to the passage of this bill, and would ask that you, too, oppose Senate Bill 2237.

    Thank you,
    Bxxxxx Hxxx

    P.S.
    GENERAL COMMENTS ON THE SITUATION THIS BILL ADDRESSES

    The prevalence of copyright violations in our current society indicates to me that either the basic law needs re-thinking, or the organizations marketing the products being violated need to re-think their methods of marketing and/or distribution. However, neither of these are sufficient reason (in my opinion) for the federal government to get involved in potentially thousands of enforcement actions against citizens.

    As in dozens or hundreds of cases in American history, mass societal 'rebellion' against a set of laws indicates that the law needs to change, not that society needs to increase its enforcement efforts. From Civil Rights to the right for women to smoke, from Women's suffrage to the ability to drive a car without requiring a flagger to walk in front of it, 'mass' rebellion against a law has shown that the law must change, not that the government must more stringently enforce the existing laws.

    Currently, those still using the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) exchange sources must (mostly) be conciously choosing to do so, knowing that these actions are in violation of current statutes. Reading in appropriate venues on line, you can find that many have stated that they will continue with this, and boycott purchase of the copyrighted materials until such time as the manufacturers correct their (perceived) inequitable, unfair, and monopolistic practices, and (in some cases) start treating the artists and the public in a fair manner.

    Yes, there are millions (estimated) of people using these P2P applications. Currrently, for example it appears that the average number of people connected to the KaZaa network (one of the larger networks) at any one time averages 2 to 3 million, with perhaps as many as 20 million people connecting to it sometime in a month, with indications that this number may be increasing. The question is: What, exactly, does this say?

    Surveys of musicians indicate that P2P file sharing has helped more artists than it has hurt. A Pew survey of musicians indicated that 35% felt that file sharing had helped their careers, and 30% felt that it had increased attendance at concerts, as opposed to only 5% who felt that they had been hurt by file sharing.

    However, the P2P programs do affect one group directly: The music distributors, members of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). These companies cumulatively control the vast majority of the outlets and methods for distributing music... or they did before the internet and P2P applications became prevalent.

    From MP3.Com (now a distribution source for independent musicians) to Napster (now a distribution source for some record companies) and KaZaa (still a P2P application/network), the RIAA has had its mon

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