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Legislation to make illegal file swapping a felony was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday by John Conyers (D.-Mich.) and Howard Berman (D.-Calif.).
The bill carries penalties of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for uploading a copyrighted file to a peer-to-peer (P2P) network.
The bill assumes each copyrighted work put on a P2P network was copied at least 10 times for a retail value of $2,500. The total retail value would make swapping a single file a felony.
The legislation also bans the practice of videotaping a movie in a theater.
Entitled the Author, Consumer and Computer Owner Protection and Security Act of 2003 (ACCOPS), the bill calls for an additional $5 million to augment the current $10 million allocated to the Justice Department to investigate copyright crimes.
The bill requires that file-sharing sites get consumer consent before searching a computer for content or to store files. In addition, the legislation would enable better information sharing between countries about copyright piracy.
A further provision of the bill would make it a federal offense to provide false information when registering a domain name.
The bill comes just two weeks after the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) issued a warning to P2P users that it planned to file "thousands of lawsuits" against individual computer users.
The RIAA, which has also filed lawsuits against the major P2P networks such as Kazaa, Morpheus and Grokster, has urged users of file-sharing programs to disable file-uploading capabilities and take steps to block copyrighted music from being pirated.
Kazaa, Morpheus and Grokster all have features built in to disable the software's uploading capacity and the RIAA legal threat is seen as an attempt to scare users into blocking uploads.
Statistics from Nielsen/NetRatings show that P2P traffic dropped more than 15 percent in the first week after the RIAA threat.
April, the RIAA filed four lawsuits against university students operating "Napster-like internal campus networks" that aid in the theft of copyrighted songs.
Those lawsuits were settled with the students agreeing to pay damages ranging from $12,000 and $17,500 each.