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House panel attacks peer-to-peer piracy in copyright bill

A House subcommittee has approved a sweeping new copyright bill that would boost penalties for peer-to-peer piracy and increase federal police powers against Internet copyright infringement. If passed and signed into law, it would be the first law to punish Internet music pirates with jail time.

The House Judiciary Intellectual Property subcommittee voted for the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act (PDEA) last week, overruling objections from a minority of members that it would unreasonably expand the FBI’s powers to demand private information from Internet service providers, CNET reported.

The PDEA — the result of intense lobbying from large copyright holders over the past six months — has emerged as a kind of grab bag that combines other proposals introduced in the past but not approved.

One section that first surfaced last year punishes an Internet user who makes available $1000 in copyrighted materials with prison terms of up to three years and fines of up to $250,000. If the PDEA became law, prosecutors would not have to prove that $1000 in copyrighted materials were downloaded; they would need only to show that those files had been publicly accessible in a shared folder.

One part of the PDEA that did not appear in earlier bills would require the FBI to “facilitate the sharing” of information among Internet providers, copyright holders and police.

CNET reported that other sections of the PDEA would require Ashcroft to boost the number of anti-piracy cops on the Justice Department’s payroll, and order the U.S. Sentencing Commission to revisit prison term guidelines to make sure they reflect “the loss attributable to people broadly distributing copyrighted works over the Internet without authorization.” The PDEA also combines parts of another of last year’s proposals that bans unauthorized recording in movie theaters and includes harsh penalties if pre-release movies are swapped on peer-to-peer networks.

At the same hearing, the House subcommittee also approved a bill that would increase criminal penalties for selling counterfeit labels that could go on CD-ROMs or software packages, and another bill to increase felony penalties for using false contact information when registering a domain name.

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