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Senate bill seeks to protect motion picture assets

Proposed legislation in the Senate seeks a stiff five-year federal prison sentence for Internet users and others who distribute movies and music ahead of their official corporate release dates.

The proposed bill, sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), would also prohibit off-screen videotaping of projected films in motion picture theaters. The motion picture industry claims to lose $3 billion annually by such pre-release practices.

If the legislation becomes law, Internet posts of motion pictures as well as the sale of bootleg videotapes of films on street corners and at flea markets would become federal felonies with a maximum sentence of five years plus monetary damages for first offenders.

Off-screen video recording in movie theaters is now a crime in four states and the District of Columbia, but legal in other states. The proposed law would make such activity much easier to prosecute.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has sought to reduce leaks by banning the distribution of pre-released DVDs to voters in awards ceremonies. Groups of actors, directors and film critics have argued that such prohibitions reduce the chance of public recognition by films from smaller producers.

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