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No Electronic Theft Act

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NO ELECTRONIC THEFT ACT (NET)

Within the Internet culture of unlicensed use, theft of intellectual property is growing. Pirating works online is the same as shoplifting a video tape, book, or computer program from a department store. Through a loophole in the law, however, copyright infringers who intentionally pirate works, as long as they do not do so for profit, are outside the reach of our nation's law enforcement officials. In 1997 President Bill Clinton introduced the No Electronic Theft Act (NET), which allows criminal enforcement against people who have no profit motive in the infringement. HR 2265 was viewed as a closing a loophole in the criminal law. Under the old statutory scheme, people who intentionally distributed copied software over the Internet did not face criminal penalties as long as they did not profit from their actions. The act was strongly backed by the software and entertainment industries but opposed by library and academic groups. The No Electronic Theft Act, as its name suggests, was enacted to criminalize the violation of copyrights through the posting of copyrighted materials on the Internet. The posting of a work on the Internet makes it extremely easy to access, read and copy that work. Because of the popularity of the Internet, moreover, any single copy of a work that is posted on the Internet could be read and copied many times over each month.
Copyright law establishes rights for both copyright holders and for purchasers of copyrighted works. A copyright holder has five exclusive rights. The rights to copy, duplicate, transcribe or imitate the work in a fixed form. The right to modify the work or create a new work based on an existing work. The right to distribute copies of the work to the public by sale, lease, rental or loan. The right to recite, perform or play the work in a public place or transmit it to the public. The...

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