Stricter electronic theft measures become law
WASHINGTON, D.C.–President Clinton in mid-December signed the No Electronic Theft Act, a copyright bill which imposes criminal penalties for duplication of copyrighted materials without permission, even if the action is for nonprofit or academic purposes. The new law replaces a provision that imposes criminal charges only if there is a monetary gain.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) introduced the bill after numerous software and entertainment groups lobbied for a law to protect musical recordings, software and other creative achievements pirated on the Internet. It establishes criminal penalties for infringement of copyrighted material for “financial gain,” defined as the “receipt of anything of value, including the receipt of other copyrighted works.”
The New York Times reported that a group called the Association for Computing had urged Clinton to veto the act, arguing it might criminalize scientific publications that borrow from other copyrighted works.
The law includes a tiered schedule of penalties depending on the severity of the copyright violation. An individual making one or more copies worth at least $1,000 but less than $2,500 could be sentenced up to one year in prison and fined up to $100,000. A copyright infringement of materials worth more than $2,500 could be imprisoned for up to three years with a fine as high as $250,000. A second offense could result in imprisonment up to six years. The law does not specify how the worth of a copyrighted work would be determined. (Public Law No. 105-147)