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P2P File Sharing Could Cost You A Bundle 1000

geekee writes "CNET posted an article claiming you could be liable for $250,000 in fines and up to 3 years in prison for p2p file sharing. This is due to an obscure law called the No Electronic Theft (NET) act passed in 1997 (signed by Bill Clinton). Although the Justice Department has not prosecuted anyone under this new law, some members of congress have asked John Ashcroft to begin prosecuting. In response to the request, John Malcolm, a deputy assistant attorney general, said to expect some NET Act prosecutions."
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P2P File Sharing Could Cost You A Bundle

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2003 @09:52PM (#5171202) WebHome []

    They need all the cash they can get.

  • by MasterD ( 18638 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @09:53PM (#5171210) Journal
    How long will it take for someone to make p2p software that will mask your IP and other pertinent information?

    They have. It is called Freenet. []

  • Canada's Great eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jclendenan ( 530313 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @09:55PM (#5171241)
    At least in our great state north of the 49th parallel we don't really have to listen to our music with the fear of the FBI coming in and arresting us for listening to music we downloaded to evaluate. Our wonderful government just takes our money from buying blank media instead.

    but it would be nice if we could get some kind of representation in the senate or congress so we could voice out conserns.

    What ever did happen to representation in government?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2003 @09:56PM (#5171247)
    ... but just not trials, perhaps.

    See Pirates With Attitude [] for one instance in which I was personally involved.

  • Sub $1000/180 Days (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2003 @09:58PM (#5171258)
    CRIMINAL INFRINGEMENT- Any person who infringes a copyright willfully either--

    (b)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,

    So don't let more than $1000 of stuff get up and it looks like you might slip under it.

    I might be reading that wrong, but that is how I am looking and interpeting it. IANAL of course. Of couse I am probably interpeting it wrong or taking it out of context.
  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:08PM (#5171315)

    > However, what should worry you is this, the law can be used to imprison or harm people who the gov't (or a malicious DA) wants out of the way.

    That's what the drug laws are for. How hard is it for the DEA or local police to 'find' a stash behind your toaster?

  • by root(at)jdm ( 631269 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:09PM (#5171323) Homepage
    RTFL = Read The F'ing Law `(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 You have nothing to worry about, continue file sharing!
  • Prisons ? (Score:2, Informative)

    by LePrince ( 604021 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:09PM (#5171324)
    Man, these are going to get overcrowded... !

    Bah, all they have to do is let the minor-crimes guilty people go out of jail with a promise never to do it again... You know, little crimes like rape, murder or pedophilia... It's REALLY much worse to have stolen 20$ from a company who already makes millions of bucks than to have killed someone these days.

    "No Sergeant, stop putting efforts in finding the serial killer in this city, we have to find all those P2P users instead ! Much more dangerous are these guys..."

    Damn. What a society do we live in where legislators are actually putting some efforts in arresting teenagers who steal a couple of mp3 off the Net rather than building social programs to help those in need. Heck, I was watching the Superbowl yesterday, and with all the money those fireworks probably costed, you could have fed one or two countries in Africa... But no, hell, no, Americans need their fireworks at the Superbowl. Much more important than those Africans dying of malnutrition.
  • Re:Funny (Score:3, Informative)

    by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:11PM (#5171336) Homepage

    Yes, the Swiss had a public referendum [] on joining the UN. It won in a squeaker: 12 cantons (like US states) for, 11 cantons against.

    In Switzerland, important changes to the law must be approved by the public.

  • by phr2 ( 545169 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:21PM (#5171405)
    It specifically says if you upload a copyrighted file in order to be allowed to download other copyrighted files, the downloads count as financial gain even though you don't get any cash. Welcome to the doublespeak future.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:23PM (#5171413) Journal
    In Switzerland, they actually let people VOTE on whether they want these acts or not.

    Nice to hear it. Wish we had that here.

    Got to love America?s "Democratic" government, passing laws without even letting the people know.

    Actually, the US isn't a democracy. It's a republic. The general population doesn't vote on the laws (as in a democracy). The enfranchised portion of the general population votes on the legislators, then the legislators vote on the laws.

    Originally the general population voted on the representatives and the states chose the senators (with the states' population in turn chosing the state reps and governor who were the ones chosing the senators). But that got changed so the population votes directly on both.

    Of course sometimes they pass laws without the CONGRESSMEN knowing.

    - The congresscritters rarely read the text, but depend on the recommendations of their staff, their party, (or sometimes their major contributors B-( ).

    - Even if they want to read what they're voting, often it's impossible. The staffers put together the final text of enormous bills, which appear on the legislators desks within hours, or even minutes, of the final vote. (I recall one that was a stack of paper several feet thick that showed up in just such a fashion.) I've yet to hear of a congresscritter voting against a bill because "I haven't had time to read it."

    - A conference committee might completely re-write a bill (possibly with similar staff "assistance"). Both houses normally rubber-stamp a conference committee's results.

    And even when the congresscritters know what they're voting on, maybe nobody else does, or has a chance to comment. For instance:

    The "Firearm Owners Protection Act" was a bill to protect gunowners from the web of 30,000-ish conflicting state, county, and local firearms laws when traveling. A tiny bill that said ~"If it's legal where you start your trip, legal where you finish it, and locked up in between, it's ok to transport it no matter what the state and local laws say in the places you pass through"~. Much support from pro-firearms groups.

    In the minutes before the final vote it was amended to also ban the manufacture of new machine guns for sale to private citizens in the (already heavily regulated) private market. So the supply would be limited to those already papered - and thus become obsolete, expensive, and eventually disappear.


    Of course it passed. (And some pro-gun organizations got a lot of undeserved flack for "selling out" the machine-gun fans, when it was really a crooked political gambit by the anti-gun politicians.)

    Of course the Swiss don't have this problem. Their government REQUIRES them each to have a machine gun (or some other piece of large-scale military nastiness) handy. B-)
  • by miratrix ( 601203 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:29PM (#5171450)
    You do know that there's no such thing called Internet Privacy Act [], right?

    I'll take that as a joke. :)
  • by Snaller ( 147050 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:30PM (#5171454) Journal
    File swappers are already commiting theft.

    Its not theft - its a copyright violation. Big difference.
  • Re:huh? (Score:2, Informative)

    by macdaddy357 ( 582412 ) <> on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:37PM (#5171500)
    The US already incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation. More than China or Russiam Whether you express it as a percentage of population or a raw number the so-called land of the free is the prison capital of the world. Why not 200,000,000 more. We could all be put to work for far less than minumum wage, and permanently disenfranchised to boot! The rich, to whom the laws don't apply anyway would then have absolute power, and slaves to do all the work.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:38PM (#5171504) Journal
    CNET posted an article claiming you could be liable for $250,000 in fines and up to 3 years in prison for p2p file sharing.

    No it did not.

    It posted an article saying that you could be [etc.] for p2p file sharing of COPYRIGHTED WORKS, WITHOUT PERMISSION.

    It's just FINE to run or use a p2p network and share UNCOPYRIGHTED works or copyrighted works WITH permission.

    Let's get it RIGHT people. If we let "p2p file sharing" become synonomous with "p2p file sharing of stolen intelectual property" we've lost half the battle.

    It used to be - as with "hackers" vs. "crackers" - the mainstream media getting it wrong and tarring the good guys with the bad-guy brush, and the nerd sites getting it right but crying in the wilderness. Now we've got a mainstream site getting it right, while the slashdot posting gets it wrong.

    I can just imagine the RIAA lawyers pouncing on this article as further evidence that "the only use for p2p is theft". "See! Even they admit it!"

    So let's have a little more attention to such distinctions - from the posters, or for GOD'S SAKE at LEAST from the EDITORS!
  • Fair use information (Score:4, Informative)

    by wayne ( 1579 ) <> on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:40PM (#5171519) Homepage Journal
    One of the problems with the fair use defense in copyright cases is that there is no clear, bright line. All of your questions have to be answered with "it depends." :- First, there are both criminal and civil penalties for copyright infringment. Criminal violations means that what you are doing is illegal and can be arrested and jailed. Civil violations "just" means that you can be sued.

    Whether you are acting legally under the fair use clause, or if you can be sued or if you can be arrested depends on things such as:

    * are you doing the copying, or are you receiving the copy?

    * Was money exchanged and/or was this part of a business?

    * Was the other person involved a friend or family?

    * Was the copying being done for educational purposes? (The more formal the education the more likely the copying will be seen as fair use.)

    * how much stuff was copied?

    * what was the commercial value of the stuff that was copied?

    * Was a copyright filed with the government? (If yes, then punative damages can be awarded, otherwise just the market value and laywer fees.)

    * Many other factors.

    The best link on the subject of fair use that I could find is: FAIR USE OF COPYRIGHTED MATERIALS [].

    Most of the web pages I've found on fair used are aimed at teachers and librarians rather than people on P2P networks.

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:41PM (#5171524) Homepage
    Wrong. Before the NET act copyright infringement (which is _not_ theft) was only a crime if you made money from it (and not usually even then). As long as you made no money the copyright owner could only sue you in civil court for damages and perhaps get an injunction.
  • by Spellbinder ( 615834 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:42PM (#5171534)
    yeah of course :p
    if we join the army we get a automatic rifle and even some bullets to keep at home (it's part of our militia system)
    but it is not legal to buy or own other such weapons
    they wanted do requier tank crews to keep their tanks at home but nobody had space for it, so they just sold the old once to people for near to nothing,
    it's a shame that you have to keep it inside of a building or i would have bought one :p
    what we have is called a half direct democracy
    that means we have some sort of congress too and to my happiness no president(if i look at bush). but we have also the possibility to infulence our law or constitution directly by a public vote
    what you have is called a indirect democracy in our schools
  • by uhmmmm ( 512629 ) <uhmmmm@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:44PM (#5171540) Homepage
    Engage in electronic reproduction for financial gain

    but the definition of financial gain is given as "receipt, or expectation of receipt, of anything of value, including the receipt of other copyrighted works."

    so, if you expect to download MP3s, you have financial gain.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2003 @10:52PM (#5171589)
    Hmm, maybe YOU should RTFL?

    (a) DEFINITION OF FINANCIAL GAIN- Section 101 of title 17, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the undesignated paragraph relating to the term `display', the following new paragraph:

    `The term `financial gain' includes receipt, or expectation of receipt, of anything of value, including the receipt of other copyrighted works.'.

    Combine this with

    (b) CRIMINAL OFFENSES- Section 506(a) of title 17, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:

    `(a) CRIMINAL INFRINGEMENT- Any person who infringes a copyright willfully either--

    `(1) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain, or [...]

    It looks like it covers pretty much everyone to me.
  • Exact Quote (Score:2, Informative)

    by SparhawkA ( 608965 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @11:06PM (#5171682)
    Section 5, subsection b) number (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,

    So in other words, if within a 6 month period one were to download a total of $1000 worth of music - they would be in violation of the NET. I have a feeling that this applies to most p2p users.
  • Encrypted IRC (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tomble ( 579119 ) <{moc.liamresu} {ta} {elbmot}> on Monday January 27, 2003 @11:11PM (#5171697) Homepage Journal
    I found out recently there's a project called SILC [] that is pretty much an encrypted replacement for IRC, and is apparently quite a bit better than the IRC based alternatives.

    Not used it myself yet, but it sounds neat.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2003 @11:25PM (#5171782)
    Right, but that person isn't necessarily the one that made it available originally. Does blindly sharing music (or worse) make it "ok" in the eyes of the law, probably not. A broken spedometer isn't an excuse for speeding, no need to proove intent, just that a law was violated.
  • by xombo ( 628858 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @11:37PM (#5171842)
    Don't all movies and such say in the beginning that there is a $250,000 fine for pirating movies? People say it is their first amentment to and they want to move away from America because of it. I always understood that if you are making money off it is when you get in real trouble. The law is the law, and it will remain in tact. Theft != 1st amendment.
  • by netdemonboberb ( 314045 ) <netdemonz AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday January 27, 2003 @11:45PM (#5171897) Homepage
    If you have never seen this:

    Is there a site for boycotting the MPAA? The old one seems to be gone.

    I wish we could also boycott movie ratings. What right do they have telling us what movies we can and can't see? Movie ratings are supposedly voluntary, but the theaters are given an ultimatum (uphold them or don't get the movie). Doesn't sound voluntary to me.


    Look at this written by the guy in charge of MPAA:

    By summer of 1966, the national scene was marked by insurrection on the campus, riots in the streets, rise in women's liberation, protest of the young, doubts about the institution of marriage, abandonment of old guiding slogans, and the crumbling of social traditions. It would have been foolish to believe that movies, that most creative of art forms, could have remained unaffected by the change and torment in our society.

    A New Kind of American Movie

    The result of all this was the emergence of a "new kind" of American movie - frank and open, and made by filmmakers subject to very few self-imposed restraints.

    Almost within weeks in my new duties, I was confronted with controversy, neither amiable nor fixable. The first issue was the film "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," in which, for the first time on the screen, the word "screw" and the phrase "hump the hostess" were heard. In company with the MPAA's general counsel, Louis Nizer, I met with Jack Warner, the legendary chieftain of Warner Bros., and his top aide, Ben Kalmenson. We talked for three hours, and the result was deletion of "screw" and retention of "hump the hostess," but I was uneasy over the meeting.


    screw! hump the hostess! Oh no, we are all going to die if we hear that, huh? What kind of super-conservative nutcase is he?

    And nudity? A PG-13 can have quite a lot of violence (even kids shows have violence), yet it can't have full-frontal nudity? What kind of puritans come up with this stuff?
  • by LucasMedaffy ( 598394 ) on Monday January 27, 2003 @11:46PM (#5171900)

    There is a program called BitTorrent out there that does just that. A server needs to run Tracker software (very lightweight, basically just maintains a list of active clients), create a .Torrent file (With the tracker server information and a file listing/checksum).

    As people connect and download the software, a P2P network builds up around it -- as you download parts of the file you are uploading to other clients. The original file hoster just needs to transfer enough such that at least 1 other person has the complete file and the P2P does the rest. Pretty slick.

  • by civilizedINTENSITY ( 45686 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @12:02AM (#5171983)
    Democracy isn't orthoganal to a republic. Thats a myth.

    Pronunciation: ri-'p&-blik
    Function: noun
    Etymology: French rpublique, from Middle French republique, from Latin respublica, from res thing, wealth + publica, feminine of publicus public -- more at REAL [], PUBLIC []
    Date: 1604
    1 a (1) : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president
    (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government
    b (1) :a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law
    (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government c : a usually specified republican [] government of a political unit <the French Fourth Republic>
    2 : a body of persons freely engaged in a specified activity <the republic of letters>
    3 : a constituent political and territorial unit of the former nations of Czechoslovakia, the U.S.S.R., or Yugoslavia

    Pronunciation: di-'m-kr&-sE
    Function: noun
    Inflected Form(s): plural -cies
    Etymology: Middle French democratie, from Late Latin democratia, from Greek dEmokratia, from dEmos + -kratia -cracy
    Date: 1576
    1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority
    :a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
    2 : a political unit that has a democratic [] government
    3 capitalized : the principles and policies of the Democratic party in the U.S.
    4 : the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority
    5 : the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges

    So we in the USA live in a Democratic Republic .
  • by gottabeme ( 590848 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @12:07AM (#5172001)
    Sorry, you recall wrong. The CBDTPA [] is bad. Check that link for good info on why. We don't want this bill passed if (when?) it is introduced.
  • by Blkdeath ( 530393 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @12:26AM (#5172105) Homepage
    Man, I wish I had some of last week's mod points left. If you are correct (and it appears you are), this whole article/thread is a waste of time. It's almost a case of Slashdot trolling itself!

    The No Electronic Theft law and the supposed "Internet Privacy Act" are two separate laws. Moreover, one was referenced in an article submission quoted from a reputable (subjective, I know) news source, and the other was an off-hand comment by one of the half-million or so Slashdot subscribers.

    Trolling about trolling. Yeesh.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @01:13AM (#5172342)
    You state that nobody has been prosecuted under the NET Act signed by Bill Clinton. This is not true. Please see the following URL: []

    If you search for that phrase in there you will see just a few of the cases that have been prosecuted under that act.
  • Jury Nullification (Score:2, Informative)

    by kevina ( 14659 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @01:24AM (#5172381) Homepage
    There is a little known process known as Jury Nullification [] which could be used when the case goes to trial. In summary an informed jury has "the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by the judge". That means that even if a P2P swapper is guilty under the NET act a jury can refuse to find the defendant guilty on the grounds the law is unjust. This is not a joke, this is very real. But hardly anyone knows about it.

    In order for this to happen, however, the jurors need to some how be informed of this constitutional right. Which might not be easy, but it is certainly possible.

    I strongly encourage anyone reading this to read the essay linked above and then go to the FIJA [] page to find out more.

  • by bobintetley ( 643462 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @04:36AM (#5172983)
    And what's the point in that?

    People can still connect to your IRC server using a standard SSH transport the same way that you are - no matter where it is in the world.

    All IRC servers allow you to easily access the IP addresses of the people you're talking to (It's part of the protocol - WHOIS). Once they have the IP, they can look up your ISP from the netblock and lean on them to reveal who you are!

    Also, whilst you encrypt your normal IRC traffic, DCCs will not be similarly encrypted, since they are simply a TCP socket opened between the two machines with the raw data of the file dumped down.

    You'd be better using your encrypted IRC in conjunction perhaps with FTP over SSH. Got to make sure then that you only give out passwords to people you know - but who can you trust?

    Something like Freenet may work a little better ( []). Ok, your ISP could probably tell that some kind of encrypted traffic is going on, but that's it (I believe Freenet uses a standard 128-bit cipher).

    I think there may be some flaws still in this due to TCP itself - any decent packet monitoring program could still determine the destination IP address on packets going to particular nodes, so you could still discover who was hosting a freenet site (ie. government agencies/RIAA etc. could simply join freenet as other people do with a packet sniffer on their machines, find a site they don't like, get the IP, etc. etc.)

    That's really what it comes down to - if you are hosting something for others, all it takes is for someone to get your IP and they can find out who you are (eventually).

    I believe ISPs should not be allowed to reveal who its customers are to third parties. Perhaps some kind of privacy law should be passed to deliberately prohibit ISPs from keeping email/traffic logs (although this requires so much hardware that it is already expensive to do this - the UK government tried to get ISPs to keep email logs, but they simply can't afford it), and more importantly if they issue dynamic IPs, no logs of who held which IP at what time.

    Here in the UK, a government crackdown is being run on people just accessing child pornography (a heinous crime indeed, don't get me wrong). However, they have no co-operation whatsoever from the ISPs - the only way they are tracing these people is by getting lists from credit card companies of people who paid money to known child porn sites.

    Anyway, bottom line - nobody is safe. Be afraid! Very afraid!
  • link (Score:2, Informative)

    by Rares Marian ( 83629 ) <{gro.cdtyidtyikd ... dfgsdfgsdgsdhsh}> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:33AM (#5173217) Homepage []
  • by CTho9305 ( 264265 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @09:42AM (#5173704) Homepage
    As long as they can't get the key, it is actually secure. So you should just need to delete the private key (well, overwrite it a bunch of times).
  • by knifegirl ( 18004 ) <> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @11:36AM (#5174527) Homepage
    Exactly what is a Phonorecord?

    According to the U.S. Copyright Office, "A phonorecord is the physical object in which works of authorship are embodied. The word 'phonorecord' includes cassette tapes, CDs, LPs, 45 r. p. m. disks, as well as other formats." (Quoted from their "Copyright Basics" brochure.)

    It's not an old-fashioned term for a record album. It's a lawyer-conceived future-friendly term for the embodiment of any recorded sound format, including ones we haven't dreamed of yet. The meat of the matter as it pertains to P2P file-sharing seems to be that copying any of these formats, currently existing or barely imaginable, to distribute electronically, in expectation of receiving copies of other copyright material, is now considered to be criminal infringement of copyright, and punishable.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."