List Of Piracy Laws In The United States

The NET Act

The No Electronic Theft, or NET Act is a U.S. law meant to combat online piracy and distribution of copyrighted material. The aim of NET Act is to deter people from uploading or downloading material by threatening large fines, and prison time.

NET was introduced to the U.S. Congress in the mid 1990s as the popularity of the internet grew around the world; fears began to grow that copyrighted material was being pirated and offered online for download for a small fee or for free. The NET Act was eventually passed into law in 1997 and made the distribution of materials, including songs, video games, software and movies a federal crime. An individual does not need to gain monetarily from the distributed material to be punished under the laws of NET Act.

The laws of the NET Act split the federal crimes of online copyright infringement into two levels. Firstly, the commercial value of the downloaded or uploaded content must be of at least $1,000; this level of copyright infringement is punishable with a fine of up to $100,000 and one year in prison. A second, more sever level of federal crime is committed when at least ten copies of copyrighted material are copied over a 180 day period. The person responsible for distributing the material must make a profit of at least $2,500. At this level the individual can be punished with a fine of $250,000 and up to five years in jail.

DMCA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is an amendment to Title 17 of the United States Code. The DMCA was the federal legal response to changes in technology which made the copying of media far easier than it had been in the past.

The DMCA’s main effect has been to criminalize the production and distribution of any method of circumventing the copyright protection measures commonly known as digital rights management, or DRM. It also criminalized the act of circumventing DRM, whether or not copyright infringement occurred afterwards. The Act specified that analog video recorders must use a specific type of copy protection to prevent DVDs from being copied via VCR. In effect, this awarded a copy protection monopoly to the Rovi Corporation (known as Macrovision at the time).

The DMCA limits the legal liability for any internet service provider whose bandwidth is used for illegal distribution of copyrighted material or circumvention methods, provided that the ISP will remove and block access to illegal material when notified of its presence by the copyright holder or the holder’s agent.

There are certain exemptions to the DMCA, including some for research, fair use of copyrighted material for review and criticism or educational purposes, and temporary copies needed during computer repair. Exemptions which are not specifically stated in the Act are revised, reviewed, and approved by the Librarian of Congress every three years.

Critics of the DMCA claim that it obstructs innovations in software development and that it impedes cryptography research.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

First enacted in 1986, the original version of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was passed by Congress and President Ronald Reagan in response to growing problem of computer network hacking that became prevalent in the 1980s. Since that time, the Abuse Act has been amended in a significant manner at least six times by subsequent legislation, with the latest changes incorporated by the Identify Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act.

The current body of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is codified in the U.S. Code Title 18, Section 1030. The law allows the federal government to step in and take action where risks are apparent to the federal government or assets that the government has an interest in, including financial companies and banks. The Act also reaches into issues where computer activity affects business and commerce across state lines as well. Because the law is written so broad, the federal government has a wide range of jurisdiction over computer activity as a result.

Criminal activity covered by the Act not provides the government jurisdiction on direct actors of crimes, it also allows federal law enforcement to go after parties who cooperate or are involved in the consideration of computer-related crimes as in a conspiracy.

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