Making a movie available electronically prior to its release can now result in a three year sentence, thanks to the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act approved Tuesday by the House. The Senate has already passed its own version, and the final bill is expected to be signed by the President.
The bill also calls for three years in cases where a person is caught recording a movie in a theater with a camcorder - and six years for a second offence. It also indemnifies theater operators against all criminal and civil liabilities arising from detaining suspects "in a reasonable manner." (Welcome to movie jail.)
Since involuntary manslaughter brings, on average, anywhere from 0 to 36 months' incarceration, one might well question the morality of going harder on those who trade files than on those who negligently cut short the lives of fellow citizens. But the 109th Congress is about nothing if not morality, and it understands well the essential sacredness of the nation's ruling cartels.
Previously, criminal laws protecting copyright had been designed to target major, organized bootleggers doing serious damage, not individuals swapping files. The new legislation is designed to broaden the law to where almost anyone can now be treated as a hardcore criminal. And since we have seen the entertainment cartels using the civil courts to conduct a vendetta against file sharers in hopes of chastening them overall, one can expect that the same examples will be made of small fry using these new, quite Draconian, criminal sanctions as well. ®