Congress moving to criminalize P2P

Congress appears to be preparing assaults against peer-to-peer technology on multiple fronts. Details in a story I just filed for Wired News.
A draft bill recently circulated among members of the House judiciary committee would make it much easier for the Justice Department to pursue criminal prosecutions against file sharers by lowering the burden of proof. The bill, obtained Thursday by Wired News, also would seek penalties of fines and prison time of up to ten years for file sharing.

In addition, on Thursday, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) introduced a bill that would allow the Justice Department to pursue civil cases against file sharers, again making it easier for law enforcement to punish people trading copyright music over peer-to-peer networks. They dubbed the bill "Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act of 2004," or the Pirate Act.

The bills come at a time when the music and movie industries are exerting enormous pressure on all branches of government at the federal and state levels to crack down on P2P content piracy. The industries also are pushing to portray P2P networks as dens of terrorists, child pornographers and criminals -- a strategy that would make it more palatable for politicians to pass laws against products that are very popular with their constituents.

In defending the Pirate Act, Hatch said the operators of P2P networks are running a conspiracy in which they lure children and young people with free music, movies and pornography. With these "human shields," the P2P companies are trying to ransom the entertainment industries into accepting their networks as a distribution channel and source of revenue.

Link to Wired News story. Read the full text of Senator Hatch's remarks describing children as "human shields against copyright owners and law enforcement agencies," and the "piracy machine designed to tempt them to engage in copyright piracy or pornography distribution," here.

UPDATE: link to full text of the PIRATE Act here.