Upload a file, go to jail

Wired has a good article about a new bill proposed in Congress that would "clarify" that uploading a single copyrighted file to a P2P network would make you eligible for a 5 year prison term and $250,000 fine.

The proposed bill (sponsored by two Dem's, John Conyers, Jr. (MI) and Howard Berman (CA)), also would make recording a movie in a theater a federal offense.

Typically, Mr. Berman's web site has a press release touting the move as "protect[ing] against online threats" -- you would think that with the stories of a 12-year old girl running away with a former US Marine in the UK this week after meeting him online that such a claim would be reserved for some kind of sexual predation prevention.

Section 301 of the bill specifically makes putting a file on a computer network prima facie proof that a file has been distributed ten times at a value of more than $2500 within 180 days, thus making it liable for the felony charge. One interesting thought about this is that with the price of music now set at $1/track (thanks, Apple!), this is an inflation of over 250 times the actual value. If, for example, you happen to accidently provide access to a copyrighted song (lets say you run a music archive of public domain music and you accidently get one copyrighted piece in there), and that song is downloaded 50 times before you realize it and shut it off, you have now been turned in to a felon for an infringement that is clearly a misdemeanor (and a mistake). Further, there is no longer required to be any proof that copying has taken place, merely that the file was made available to the network. That leaves open a lot of questions about proof of this kind of claim.

Not mentioned in the article on Wired is the provision to put you in the slammer for five years if you provide false information to a domain registrar when registering a domain.

Needless to say, the EFF doesn't like it.