House panel Moves to criminalize Spyware, net piracy

People who illegally share copyrighted music and movies over the Internet could be jailed for up to five years under a bill recently approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

The Piracy Deterrence and Education Act of 2004 is one of a handful of measures gathering steam in Congress that target the practice of Internet file sharing, which record companies blame for playing a part in a $2 billion decline in yearly CD sales since 2000, the Washington Post reported. The committee approved the measure by voice vote, clearing it for a full debate in the House.

The committee also approved a measure making it a crime to surreptitiously place Internet spyware on computers.

Spyware is a broad term used to describe technology that tracks users’ movements online. It can range from relatively innocuous ad-ware, which peppers consumers with pop-up advertisements, to more insidious programs that record everything users type, including passwords and other sensitive personal data.

The newspaper said that Congress has done little thus far to address Internet file swapping, but that could change in the next few months as lawmakers in both houses consider a clutch of measures that target either individual downloaders or the companies — like Kazaa and eDonkey — that distribute the file-swapping software.

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