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Criminal charges for infringers under the NET act of 1997

The No Electronic Theft Act became law in 1997 after then President Bill Clinton signed it. What it did was to close a major hole or flaw in the copyright laws that allowed someone to infringe without recourse if they had no profit incentive to do it. As of now anyone whom willing posts a copyrighted item online that is not theirs whether for profit or not is breaking the law and can be severely punished. It is a felony to reproduce or distribute copies of copyrighted works electronically regardless of whether the defendant had a profit motive.

The penalties are a three tier type of system. The minor ones with a total retail value of less than a thousand dollars are pretty much left alone. If the value exceeds a thousand dollars than you can be fined $100,000 dollars and may be jailed for up to a year. The higher level starts with a total retail value of more than twenty-five hundred dollars in a period of 180 days with 10 copies total during that time. The fine can be as high as $250,000 dollars and up to 5 years in prison.

As you can see with this act and the others the federal government is tired of people infringing other people’s work. Now the questions begin. Can you sue a company for doing this type of activity? Why not, the Supreme Court said a corporation is an individual so sue them. As for individuals who have done this to you, evaluate the situation and make a call as to what you are trying to accomplish. I have stated many times that criminal prosecution for copyright infringement should be the last resort but that it should never be off the table if it applies.

The NET act is a good way to help curb copyright infringement by small companies and individuals. Once someone realizes that they can be prosecuted they should stop and if you feel they need to pay for their infringement you have an avenue to address that with them.

For the ones who say they are going to prosecute someone for doing this. You cannot prosecute anyone for anything. That job is reserved for the prosecutor not private individuals. You may be a witness but that is about the extent of your involvement. Also remember that the fines are not yours.

I do think the suggestion that someone allowing the infringer to use their home or office as an abode and benefits from that arrangement might be held accountable under some of the other laws as well. If the infringer is using original files to upload or copies of those files makes no difference. If they have both then it gets very interesting for them. As I say, I am not an attorney so you need to check that out with either an attorney or a prosecutor.

Just do yourself a favor and remember that an infringer can be prosecuted a few different ways depending on the circumstances. They can also be prosecuted for theft if they took hard copies. The real question becomes when do you decide and on what grounds do you file the complaint(s)?

I am not an attorney. These are my personal opinions and general information only. These are not legal advice and should not be used as such.