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File Trading Law Would Include 'Willing' Traders 582

mgessner writes "From InfoWorld comes a story on the U.S. House's approval of a new, tough law against trading files online. 'The bill expands the definition of file traders eligible for criminal penalties from individuals who 'willingly' distribute copyright files to those who 'knowingly' do so, an escalation that could result in jail time for file swappers.'" (The bill has yet to go through the Senate.)
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File Trading Law Would Include 'Willing' Traders

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  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:13PM (#10385187)
    I guess Granny won't be coming to Christmas this year.

    • In Bush's America, Laws Break You!

      [/would be funny if it weren't true]
    • Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

      Just what we need. More stupid fucking laws keeping more Americans in jail per capita than any other country in the world.

      "Land of the Free" is the biggest bullshit line I've ever heard/read.

  • by NetMagi ( 547135 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:14PM (#10385194)
    with boxes checked by default, and programs scanning ur hd's for stuff to share, how do they determine just where the thin line of knowingly and willingly is???
    • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:26PM (#10385336) Journal
      Said person supposedly operating in ignorance could be given the benefit of the doubt with exactly _ONE_ warning, and given a finite interval (perhaps 2 weeks) in which to rectify the situation. Failure to comply within that interval would leave them without any excuse for not knowing they were distributing.
    • by Nos. ( 179609 ) <andrew.thekerrs@ca> on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:27PM (#10385354) Homepage
      That's just it. A lot of people using this file sharing programs have no idea what they're doing... my site (see sig) is a prime example of this. People need to pay attention to the software they're installing and what it is doing.
    • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @02:25PM (#10386007)
      how do they determine just where the thin line of knowingly and willingly is??? Well, I'd say a law like this is the end of distributed content systems like Freenet. Given the percentage of content that violates copyrights, and the way data is spread out and replicated, there is no chance of running a Freenet server without hosting infringing content.

      Thus simply participating in the network constitutes "knowingly" distributing copyright material.

      Of course precisely the same could be said for telephone networks - they run their services knowing (for certain) that on any given day, many people are using the phone network to break laws, from violations of the national "do not call" list to planning terrorist attacks.

    • "Willingly" means that it was your desire to cause the result (the distribution of copyrighted materials).

      "Knowingly" simply means that you caused it and knew you were causing it, regardless of whether you desired the result or just knew it was an inevitable byproduct of your actions.

      It's pretty rare that someone gets off for a crime because they "knew" but didn't "will" the result. But it's an open argument with file-trading, because a lot of programs share files by default. So if this bill were the la
  • by watermodem ( 714738 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:15PM (#10385200)
    The GPL is a copyright so does this make it illegal to download opensource software?
    • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:30PM (#10385377) Journal
      Clearly the wording of the bill needs to be changed so that it would only apply to distribution without the consent of the copyright holder. Otherwise, this bill would make it illegal for a coypright holder to distribute his very own material! (effectively negating the actual meaning of copyright completely.)
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Clearly the wording of the bill needs to be changed so that it would only apply to distribution without the consent of the copyright holder. Otherwise, this bill would make it illegal for a coypright holder to distribute his very own material! (effectively negating the actual meaning of copyright completely.)

        Wrong - it would just make it illegal to distribute any copyright material online.

        Tell me, who is sponsoring all these anti-file-trading laws? Oh yes, the RIAA and MPAA.

        Now, tell me, which two majo
      • by phurley ( 65499 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:46PM (#10385538) Homepage
        The text of the bill states "infringes a copyright willfully." I would assume (IANAL), that the term infringes carries to existing copyright law as to what is and is not an infringing activity, i.e. if you have the permission of the copyright holder, it is legal.
    • GPL is not a copyright. It's a license. GPL software can still be copyrighted, but so can any other closed source freeware program, so bringing up the GPL really has no bearing here.
  • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:15PM (#10385203)
    The actual "Piracy Deterrence and Education Act of 2004" itself:

    Index []

    Summary []

    Text of legislation []

  • by Sanity ( 1431 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:16PM (#10385216) Homepage Journal
    ...for countries outside the US looking for some smart software engineers. With this in mind, here is a letter I recently wrote to the UK's Home Secretary regarding another anti-innovation law, the Induce Act (the home secretary is responsible for UK immigration policy):
    Dear Home Secretary,

    It is well known that the United Kingdom is keen to attract skilled workers to the UK, particularly those involved in the software industry.

    The United States is poised to pass legislation, known as the "Induce Act", which will dramatically increase the risk of innovation in the software industry in the United States. If passed, this legislation is likely to prompt a large number of the United States' most talented software engineers to consider relocation to another country.

    The United Kingdom is well suited to provide an alternate base for these displaced software engineers, where their innovations may benefit the UK's economy, not to mention the economy of the European Union.

    My question is whether the UK government has made sufficient provision for displaced American innovators to migrate here given the hostile environment they may soon face in their own country. It is my belief that the United Kingdom can only benefit from the influx of talented software engineers from the United States, and should minimise any barriers to their migration here.

    I await your response with much anticipation,

    Kind regards,

    Ian Clarke
    Coordinator, The Freenet Project

    • by FerretFrottage ( 714136 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:24PM (#10385313)
      I suspect that those software engineers will set sail east across "the pond" in search of a land were they can have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Rights that many in our government are trying to take away [if you aren't "with them"]. We tried it over here, it worked for about 224 years and at last the western empire is starting to crumble.

    • For anyone interested in the Incude Act and what it is, here's a reasonably good Wired article [] on it.
    • If the UK was truly keen to attract skilled software workers, I wouldn't be typing this from my New York office - I'd be back home in Scotland instead.
    • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:32PM (#10385403)

      Lots of things are different between the US and the UK. For instance the UK is banning fox hunting, while my state (MN) consideres hunting a legal right that is now part of the constitution. UK bans many more guns than the US. The UK has more cameras watching their streets than any other country. (Though the US is trying to catch up)

      In short: there is plenty wrong with every country. I don't like the Induce act, but it isn't enough to make me exchange the rights violated in the US for the rights violated in the UK.

      • I think often that Americans' view of UK is as skewed as Brits' view of the US because our starting points are so different (I'm a Brit in LA, so I have *some* insight).

        I don't think I ever saw a gun in England as a kid. In the 90's I saw my first Policeman with gun in Central London and that kinda freaked me a bit. Very few people in England feel their "rights" are being trodden on by not owning a gun. It just makes sense.

        Whilst over here, being brought up in a culture where guns are everywhere, it's jus
    • Well, as someone who lives just North of the US Border, I have to say that a lot of talented US innovators are already moving.

      A number of others are living in border states and are working on getting to know the Canadian technology world so that if they have to, they can emigrate quickly. In Canada, we take privacy seriously; there is a strict Federal Privacy act that all governmental institutions have to answer to, and at the beginning of this year, a new business privacy act went into place as well, protecting individuals from shoddy business handling of information.

      Slashdot has covered our copyright laws and trials enough that I won't get into that side of things. The UK probably hasn't given the US emigration possibility a huge amount of thought, but believe me, in many Canadian provinces, it has been a major item of consideration when modifying our IT-related laws.

    • That's silly.

      I agree that is act is a bad idea. Consumers/voters clearly don't want it. It only serves to protect an industry that has been ripping consumers and the majority of artists off with its sudo monopolistic behavior. At this point there is ZERO chance of going back to the old paradigm. We are better off embracing P2P as the tool that it is and let liaise fair capitalism find a way to adapt as it always has in the past.

      However, as to this causing a mass exodus from the US, that's not going to
  • While we're at it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ravenspear ( 756059 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:16PM (#10385219)
    Let's have:

    people who illegally photocopy books go to jail
    people who illegally perform plays and musical pieces go to jail
    people who plagiarize or don't cite references go to jail

    Hell let's just have anyone who says anything in a non-free speech zone go to jail.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If I "knowingly" share files, aren't I "willingly" sharing them as well.

    Does this apply to people who KNOW that they share files, but don't WANT to???

    I'm confused!!!
  • As intrusive as a bill like this might seem at first glance, it bothers me that there are those who think it's their God-given right to free music or movies simply because they're available to download.

    That being said, I feel it's important to note that what needs evaluating isn't the violation of copyright, rather, the purpose and effect of copyright itself.

    • by HBI ( 604924 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:30PM (#10385386) Journal
      You do realize, of course, that audio recordings were not copyrighted in the US before mid-1972, correct? []

      The problem isn't the people, it's the law. Trying to sell recorded copies of music in an era where music copying is simple and easy requires the construction of a police state. It's a ludicrous response to the issue. Making it a felony to share files will result in many congressmen and women losing their jobs. Not that that is a bad thing.

      As if this law will stop anything - the US is becoming a nation of file leeches, since you only get busted for sharing, not downloading. I wonder when the 'Great Firewall of America' will be forthcoming?

      The musician has to find a different means of marketing, basically. If there are fewer musicians in the future, well, I suspect the ones that go will be the ones that suck the worst in general, so that's no great loss. And before some musician or record company shill starts whining to me, I don't see a lot of people crying when my industry gets devastated by foreign outsourcing. Where's the 'Anti-Outsourcing Act of 2004'? Nowhere. So why are we protecting the content distribution industry? Beats me.

      Threatening to throw people in jail for sharing files is akin to say, huge sentences for selling marijuana. We see how that problem got solved, right? Failing to learn from history dooms you to repeat it.

    • As intrusive as a bill like this might seem at first glance, it bothers me that there are those who think it's their God-given right to free music or movies simply because they're available to download.

      As righteous as a bill like this may seem at the first glance, it bothers me that there are those who think that copyright is a God-given law, and not something some fat-walleted corporate assholes came up with fairly recently, around a 100 years ago. I really don't see any reason why copyright law shouldn
    • [...] it bothers me that there are those who think it's their God-given right to free music or movies simply because they're available to download.

      What bothers me more is a bunch of greedy privateers who rob us of the culture we all helped to create. Getting people to pay toll for every piece of art/music/writing for 150 years is insane.

      If the copyright expired after 28 years, we would be less likely to to pass things around for free.

      Who exactly am I harming when I share recordings of Charlie Parker

  • by Yo Grark ( 465041 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:17PM (#10385226)
    We'll build large complexes to house all the file traders. Force them to attend some kind of "knowledge" classes, make them pay restitution, keep them up til all hours of the night studying how good societies act, how responsible citizens should act.

    We'll ban all contraband and make sure we run them through a series of tests before letting them out.

    Oh wait, I've done my time, it was called University!

    Yo Grark
  • Eisgrau's right - it's a good idea in principle from the perspective of everyone in the music/movie industry and as far as copyrights go, but realistically, it's just more talk. Nothing is going to change. Everyone is used to free music, and until large percentages of people are sued (which probably will never happen), they will continue to break copyright law.
    • until large percentages of people are sued (which probably will never happen), they will continue to break copyright law

      Actually, it almost certainly will happen, since it will be on the taxpayer's dime rather than the RIAAs. There is no disincentive to the RIAA asking for and eating up millions in taxpayer funds chasing down those using p2p networks.

      In my opinion, laws like this should be to defend those without the resources from those with the resources. This is the other way around (using rich gove

  • I have no will. Any copyright infringements I may be accused of will be the fault of the my computers, who told me to do so.
  • by linuxislandsucks ( 461335 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:19PM (#10385252) Homepage Journal
    In abone head move Congress outlaws file trading amoung willing participants.. ..hmm they seem to have flunked intrnet 101 as your borwser reads afile/shares a fiel with the server to give you that nice graphical page..

    Sonny Bono must be hitting that tree again and again and again
  • by bizpile ( 758055 ) * on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:21PM (#10385270) Homepage
    From the article:
    Detractors of the legislation claim that the measure would not stop the trading of copyright files and will not help the entertainment industry find a way to ensure artists get paid for the distribution of their works.

    Well, what law has ever stopped a crime. Laws (theoretically) just reduce crime (but, obviously not in all cases).

    Also, from the article:
    "Putting downloaders behind bars, or decimating their college funds with civil lawsuits, won't put the genie of peer-to-peer technology back in the bottle or put real money in the pockets of real artists," P2P United's Eisgrau said in an e-mail interview with IDG News Service earlier this week.

    This is the smartest thing I've read about file sharing in general to date.

    P.S.: What is the difference between knowingly and willingly?
  • When people start abusing this law and the public gets fed up with it congress will be left with all the blame.

    Regardless of who becomes president for the next four years, we are still going to see more stupid laws like these in the future.

  • by Zemran ( 3101 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:22PM (#10385287) Homepage Journal
    why I am glad that I do not live in America...
    • Why is it anytime the US passes a stupid law the Europeans come out of the woodwork like ants all giving their thanks that they don't live there, yet whenever an EU nation passes a stupid law they're completely silent?

      At least the US doesn't have cameras on every screet corner and doesn't though people in jail for encrypting their email. The US may be moving in that direction, but you guys are ALREADY THERE!
  • by Aumaden ( 598628 ) <(Devon.C.Miller) (at) (> on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:25PM (#10385330) Journal
    What is the distinction being made here?

    To me, "knowingly" implies that a file is being shared with the user's knowledge. Whereas "willingly" implies the user made a conscious choice to share the file.

    What's the difference, legally speaking?

  • It's not "File Trading law Would Include 'Willing' Traders".

    It's "File Trading Law Would Include 'Knowing' Traders".
  • by JeanPaulBob ( 585149 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:28PM (#10385361)
    My google-fu must be on the fritz today; I can't find a website telling me how representatives voted on this bill. Can anyone else do better?
  • by ( 142825 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:29PM (#10385375) Homepage
    If you have an infected machine that has an open exploit, you may be prosecuted since you willingly run a machine that is on the internet. That you didn't make sure that there was no open shares, ftp servers, or virus that might allow others to use your machine for sharing files.
  • Thats why they have to enact these laws.

    Just like the days of cassettte []

    You know its right!
  • I'm a legal layman but it sounds like they're taking the mens rea (guilty mind) out of it entirely. How do you determine if someone is "willing to do it?" At the rate they are going, why not just eschew all notions of this being about justice, since justice has to be both acquired for the victim and **delivered to** the perp.

    If there was any copyright law for all sides to agree on opposing this is it. This is more of a thought police law than a copyright law.
  • by nomadic ( 141991 )
    The submission title and submission body say different things. Wouldn't it be cool if slashdot "editors" actually editted?
  • by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:33PM (#10385417)
    Clearly this law is incompatible with American society.. tens of millions of people cannot be wrong.
  • by cOdEgUru ( 181536 ) * on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:33PM (#10385420) Homepage Journal
    is known to make party line stance on virtually all of the issues ever to encounter, that its hard to envisage this guy has ever in his life, thought for himself, used his god given intelligence to seperate himself (or others) from the party line rhetoric, or to atleast understand the laws he is responsible for passing in the house.

    A few of his noted yes/no votes can shed a lot of light on where he stands on the issues:

    (1)Voted YES on allowing school prayer during the War on Terror - Yes praying as a collective does help in cleansing terrorism.
    (2)Voted YES on giving federal aid only to schools allowing voluntary prayer
    (3)Voted NO on raising CAFE standards; incentives for alternative fuels - Wants to rely on Oil and dont want the Automobile industry to answer to better environmental standards.
    (4)Voted NO on prohibiting oil drilling & development in ANWR. - Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, enough said!
    (5)Voted YES on speeding up approval of forest thinning projects - Apparently want the rest of the US start looking like Texas (no offense).
    (6)Voted YES on Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China - Yes, Cuba - BAD, China - GOOD!!
    (7)Voted NO on $156M to IMF for 3rd-world debt reduction - Handouts are good when its to your automobile industry cronies and to big corporations, bad idea when its to third world countries.
    (8)Voted NO on campaign finance reform banning soft-money contributions - No Finance Reform!! Period!
    (9)Voted YES on decreasing gun waiting period from 3 days to 1 - By God! Yes, we all know how excruciatingly painful it is to wait 3 days for appropriate checks to be made..
    (10)Voted NO on allowing reimportation of prescription drugs - We really believe you should pay 20$ for that tylenol pill instead of 30 cents if you were importing it from Canada.

    What pisses me off is that even if Kerry wins this November, the senate and the house under Republican control will end up making him an acting president and not a real one. Not that I think a Democrat controlled house and senate is any better. I just want politicians to really understand the bills they sign and talk to people who these laws ultimately affect.
  • by Murdock037 ( 469526 ) <> on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:36PM (#10385446)
    This is a great example of the ways in which big business can manipulate government to its advantage.

    It's perfectly within reason that copyright holders can sue, , in civil suits, to stop the unauthorized distribution of their works. Copyright violation is a matter between two parties: the copyright holder and the violator.

    But with a law like this, the onus to police copyright matters falls on the government, and not the copyright holder.

    What we're seeing is a push by big business, through legislation, to reduce their attorney fees. When copyright matters are criminal cases, not civil actions, the violators are punished-- justly or not-- at the expense of government, rather than at the expense of the corporation.
  • by blueZhift ( 652272 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:36PM (#10385448) Homepage Journal
    Hmm at this rate we'll soon have to put murderers, drug dealers, rapists, and terrorists out on the street to make room for all of the file swappers we're putting in jail! I know I'll feel a lot safer that way, and Britney will be able to sleep at night safe and secure in the knowledge that record company profits are secure!
  • by applemasker ( 694059 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:38PM (#10385462)
    That's what this article (poorly) attempts to talk about.

    Different laws (criminal and civil) punish actors differently based on not just the act itself, but also the actor's state of mind.

    Generally, commiting the same act intentionally as opposed to recklessly or negligently will bring on a harsher penalty. Intentionally aiming a rifle at someone and shooting is punished more harshly than if the gun goes off accidentally and kills them. The victim is just as dead in both cases, but the first actor will probably be punished more severely than the second.

    In this case, the House seems to have lowered the bar to include both intentional and willful conduct (there is probably a subtle difference between the two) but not negligent or reckless conduct. All of these terms are (or will be) defined elsewhere in the Act or in the U.S. Code. Without knowing what the devil Congress means by these qualifiers, it's hard to say what exactly has been passed. Odds are though, it's not good.

    My guess is that if one is found to be sharing more than X number of files (or transferring X amount of copyrighted data) the law will provide that the requisite level of intent has been met.

  • by D4C5CE ( 578304 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:45PM (#10385533)
    There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.
    Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them.
    One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.
    Atlas Shrugged (1957) []
  • Bill needs exception (Score:3, Informative)

    by LightSail ( 682738 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:51PM (#10385608)
    Any copyright enforcement bill needs the exception for Senators that use unlicensed software:,1283,59305, 00 .html
  • by hwestiii ( 11787 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @01:58PM (#10385695) Homepage
    This sort of fascinated and horrified me when I finally realized it was true, but then upon reflection, one sees that the U.S. was essentially born out of a property rights dispute with the English crown(taxation without representation), and in the Civil War, nearly tore itself apart over a property rights issue, that being human slavery.

    I guess we take them seriously here.
  • by MichaelCrawford ( 610140 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @02:04PM (#10385770) Homepage Journal
    It is within your power to put a stop to this nonsense. But you have to act now.

    In Change the Law [] I point out that while the Constitution allows for Congress to enact copyright laws, it doesn't actually require it to do so. Copyright could be repealed tomorrow if we could get enough votes in Congress to do so.

    If you don't think this could happen, consider that there are more Americans sharing files via peer-to-peer networks than voted for George Bush in 2000.

    In my article I detail a number of steps you can take to bring about much needed copyright reform. My suggestions are that you:

    If you feel as I do that more people need to read my article, you can help by linking to it from your website, weblog, or from other message boards.

    If you're a US citizen and 18 years of age or over, you can vote in November. But to do that, you must be registered to vote in your state. The voter registration deadline for most states is just a few days away, October 2nd for most states. So register today! Rock the Vote [] can help you with registration.

    If you're a US citizen residing in a foreign country like me (I live in Canada), you can register to vote with the form you can obtain from the Federal Voting Assistance Program []. You can register to vote in the last state you resided in in the US. But again, your registration must be received by your state by the deadline, so either express your application, or fax it, if a fax number is available.

    (If you've never lived in the US, but one of your parents was a US citizen, then you're a US citizen too and you can register in the last state your parent resided in.)

    If you want to make a campaign donation, a good choice would be Representative Rick Boucher []. Rick Boucher has worked tirelessly for copyright reform, as you can see from his article Time to rewrite the DMCA [].

  • anonymous p2p (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kardar ( 636122 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @02:47PM (#10386254)
    It looks like, if you really look at it with a sense of "the big picture", that the U.S. Govt. doesn't like the internet. Just like it's easy for citizens and average computer users to be "infringing" without knowing or realizing it, it's easy for the legislators to be disliking the internet without realizing it. So the end result is, is some ways, not unlike China - although on the surface it simply appears that the legislators want to pick and choose those parts of cyberspace that will please the campaign contributions for the incumbents. But they are rapidly becoming enemies of the internet and free speech, without even realizing it.

    But it's also time to move on. It's not the responsiblity of the content distributors to enforce copyright laws. So in that sense, this bill makes some sense - if there are laws to enforce, it's the government that should be enforcing them.

    The problem is that it's way to easy to get in trouble without even realizing what you are doing - sort of like driving a car that has no speedometer - better yet, driving a car that has no windshield so you can't see who you are running over. Anonymous p2p is going to solve this problem in the future. It is going to 1) further free speech, freedom of expression, and create a forum where artists and fans can share and learn and experience new things; 2) protect unwitting, inexperienced computer users from breaking harsh laws unknowningly. It may also protect parents from their kid's evil friends, and roommates from each other.

    Furthermore, I don't see how you can pass a bill that places the enforcement of a three-year or greater felony in the hands of minimum-wage movie theater employees. Someone is bound to get hurt.

  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @04:39PM (#10387603) Homepage Journal
    The combination of both, makes it pretty easy to setup 'zombie P2P' machines..

    Hard to prove it wasnt intended.. ( ie: 'willing' )

    And before you say ' people should know better and be responsible for their actions' , most average people cant figure out how to put files on a floppy.. you cant expect them to secure their 'network'..
  • by andy314159pi ( 787550 ) on Wednesday September 29, 2004 @05:28PM (#10388193) Journal
    The U.S. government pays me to do research on reactive chemistry. I am required to move very large files across networks. I am afraid that this movement of files might be misconstrued as illegal file sharing by corporations that can put me in jail. Is it important for me to continue doing research for the government that also may allow corporations to accuse me of file sharing based solely on large amounts of local area network traffic?
    The answer is that I should probably quit using a computer in order to preserve my status as a non-felon.

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb