Judiciary Committee Votes Custodial Sentences for File Swappers and Spyware

The US House Judiciary Committee has voted for criminal penalties for individuals that install spyware on PCs and for movie pirates.

A new copyright bill, the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act is calling for sentences of up to three years in jail for individuals who illegally share US$1,000 (€819) worth of copyrighted material over the internet. That, plus the promise of being sued by the RIAA should be enough to deter most people from ripping off music.

When the House Judiciary Committee approved the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act, Congressman Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas, said in a statement on his website: “Piracy of intellectual property over the Internet, especially on peer-to-peer networks, has reached alarming levels… This legislation increases cooperation among federal agencies and intellectual property owners, and assists federal law enforcement authorities in their efforts to investigate and prosecute intellectual property crimes.”

Additionally, people who install spyware on victims’ PCs for the purpose of stealing identities and personal details will also face prison sentences. The Internet Spyware Prevention Act, sponsored by Bob Goodlatte and Lamar Smith is to go towards the full Congress and suggests jails sentences of between two and five years depending on the severity of the case.

Since the CAN-Spam act was entirely toothless, time will see just how effective these two pieces of legislation will be if they finally become law.

Lamar Smith

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?