The NET Act
In 1997, 16th December, the congress passed the No Electronic Theft Act which was later to be signed by President Clinton, into law. The act was enacted to facilitate the prosecution of any violations on copyrights which is perpetrated on the internet. The act declared all actions of reproducing, distributing and sharing copies of electronic copyright materials, as a federal crime(Bernstein 325). Some of the copyrighted electronic materials which were meant to be protected by the NET act are movies, songs, games, movies and software applications or programs. This Act facilitated prosecution even in situations when the individual distributing or copying the copyrighted material was doing with no intent of gaining anything financially or doing business with acquired copies.
Prior to the enactment of the NET Act, individuals who possess or distribute copyrighted electronic materials were not prosecuted if they undertook the action without any intention of gaining anything financially. However, with the lobbying by big companies in the software, music and movie industries, the congress passed that Act to close the piracy loophole. The exponents of the NET Act were nearly wholly large corporations who were defensibly absorbed in the protection of their hoards. The NET Act relishes strong backing from the Department of Justice, the U.S. Copyright Office, Software Publishers Association, Microsoft Corporation, Adobe Software, Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry of America. Each of these groups represented by agents addressed the U.S congress, advocating for the Bill (Raysman, 45).
Whether harm is perceived as a damage to the holder of the copy right or the community, or a larger harm to national copyright reguation, an impartial approximation of economic loss is required. However, appraising and appraising the economic damae caused by infringement is not a simple issue. Recent studies have disvlosed that there are measurement and causation problem which are inherent with copyright infringement. Harm is widely considred as a disvalue, a loss, or a set-back to a publicly valuable interest. An individual or business with interests in the copyrighted material or work suffers some notch of dispossession when that material or work is distributed used or reproduced without his, or their consent. The particular claim is that the holders of copyright have a stake in the welfare of the interests they have on the copyrighted material and are more disadvantaged when the material or work is distributed or shared without payment or approval. This modest statement is intricated by the restraint that the loss an individual suffers should also result in communal damages.
On the contrary, the harm emrging out of noncompetitive copyright violation by persons who copy and distribute with the inetion of using personally, do not pose significant or rather direct threats tp the commercial position. The damage imposed by copyright violation for personal use is benefit that ought to have been gained from the sale of the material or work. However, this claim of deprived benefit is not absolute, largely because it shoulders the ntotion that user would have bought the object.Even accommodating the contention of deprived sales, the damage caused by a single user is slight, particularly when matched with the lost benefits or total revenues. Eventually, unlike competitive copyright infringement, the total damage caused by infringememnt for personal use does not amass to the single violator. The issue of amassed damage poses an associated problem of punishing the infringer. This problem, which imputes the damage to the individual conduct of the copyright holder implicate the doctrine of criminal law that the punishment should be rational; should be equated to the damages.
Over the mid-1990s, the popularity of the internet was growing exponentially; individuals were beginning to use it as a conventional way to communicate with one another (Ross 7). The emergence of the messenger service, American Online (AOL) enabled individual to converse with each other instantly irrespective of their geographical locations. When people begin discussing things of interest, they frequently offer illustrations of examples for instance in the case of a song. If one has a song on his or her personal computer, possibly in MP3 format, he or she may easily send the file to the other person through email. Even though none receives an actual financial advantage from the action, the copyright holder loses funds. The record label, distributor and the artist forfeits the chance to sell the single song or the entire album. What is perceived as innocence in the sending party’s side is not innocence at all.
As a result of the increasing trend of sharing files, the artists and music industry at large became concerned over the revenue loss and sought to redress the issue. In coincidence, there were several advances in the technology and computers which resulted in the establishment of the NET Act. The ability to save a picture or file by just right clicking and saving, posed a real problem. Nevertheless, pictures were not the main targets. Movies and music are big business and individuals were discovering means to pirate them without committing a single penny. Peer sharing of movie and music files were costing record firms, studios, actor, artists, large sums of money. These technological advances required the implementation of a policy or regulation to safeguard the interests of copy right holders. It was for this reason the ACT was enacted.
The enactment closed the loophole by imposing criminal charges for specific copyright violations, even when the violator has no financial intention. This decree converses the copyright policy which has been in play for over a hundred years by excluding the need of commercial manipulation to elicit criminal charges for violation. The provisions of the Act levy criminal charges on a person who deliberately distributes or reproduces copyrighted material for the purposes of private financial gain, commercial advantage, or no financial benefit. Also covered by the Act is the distribution and reproduction in the course of 180 day period of a single copy or more of copyrighted materials which have an aggregate retail value of approximately 1,000 dollar or more.
Currently it is a federal crime to distribute or reproduce copyrighted materials or work, within a 6- month period, whose total retail value exceeds $1000. The objective of the congress was to arrive at non-competitive infringements by people including disgruntled employees who have no intention of gaining financially from copying, and hackers. Therefore, the onset retail value of 1,000 dollars is best assumed as de minimis violations rather than as a sign of financial motivation (“No Electronic Theft (NET) Act”).
The act also amended the definition of financial gain to include any valuable thing, even receiving other copyrighted items. As defined under the Act, financial gain includes receipts or anticipation of receipt, of some valuable item, which includes the receipt of some other copyrighted materials. This implies that even though the action is not accompanied with any monetary benefits, an individual may be criminally prosecuted provided the aggregate retail value of distribution or reproduction exceeding 1,000 dollars.
The No Electronic Theft Act was enacted to bring copyright infringement on all electronic material to an end. These violations were costing holders of copyrights millions of dollars annually. The Act allows for the prosecution for violation irrespective of the motives of the violators. Even though the violator is distributing or reproducing the material without any intention of gaining financially, he or she is still liable, and may have criminal charges imposed on him or her. Since enactment the Act has been applied in the prosecution of individuals seeking financial advantage and those who do not. The NET Act was essential because of the ease of sharing electronic media materials which are copyrighted and the people’s inclination to do so. The larceny of copyrighted electronic media and materials will possibly never come to an end but regulations such as NET may assist in prosecuting individuals or businesses involved in the infringement of copyrights.
Bernstein, Karen J. "No Electronic Theft Act: The Music Industry's New Instrument in the Fight against Internet Piracy, The." UCLA Ent. L. Rev. 7 (1999): 325.
Campbell, Dennis, and Susan Cotter. Copyright Infringement. London: Kluwer Law International, 1997. Print.
No Electronic Theft (NET) Act: Report (to Accompany H.r. 2265) (including Cost Estimate of the Congressional Budget Office). Washington, D.C: U.S. G.P.O, 1997. Print
Raysman, Richard. Emerging Technologies and the Law: Forms and Analysis. New York, N.Y: Law Journal Press, 2002. Continually updated resource
Ross, Terence P. Intellectual Property Law: Damages and Remedies. New York, N.Y: Law Journal Press, 2000. Continually updated resource