ResNet: Net Act

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No Electronic Theft Act

On December 17, 1997, President Clinton signed the No Electronic Theft (NET) Act. This legislation criminalizes the willful infringement, including by electronic means, of copyrighted works, whether or not the infringing party derives any direct financial benefit from the infringement.

Under the Copyright Act, criminal copyright infringement has traditionally been required to both 'willful infringement' and 'undertaken for profit'. The NET Act amends the copyright law to exclude the 'undertaken forprofit' motive. Individuals may risk criminal prosecution for willful infringement of copyrighted materials, including willful electronic infringement of copyrighted materials. Penalties include up to six years in prisonand fines based on the seriousness of the infringement and the damage to the copyright holder.

The NET Act increases the risk of criminal liability for copyright infringement. The NET Act makes it a criminal offense to duplicate, in any ways any copyrighted material even if the person duplicating the material gives it away and does not profit from the duplicating. The individual making the copies could be charged with a misdemeanor violation if the accumulated value of the copies is worth $1,000(retail value). If the copies have an accumulated value of $2,500 or more, the individual making of the copies could be charged with a felony. The NET Act includes all copyrighted materials(books, periodicals, recordings, software, CD-ROM, etc.) and includes all methods of duplicating (photocopying, Faxing, downloading, recordings, etc.). The NET Act stresses electronic theft and transferal of copyrighted materials because the Act is a response to United States v. La Macchia in which an MIT student loaded copyrighted materials onto the Internet and invited others to download this material, free of charge. Because the student received no direct financial benefit from his activity, the court held that the criminal provisions of the copyright law did not apply to his infringement.

UWP faculty, staff and students need to be aware of this change in the law, and of the need to comply with copyright law, particularly in the context of computing resources.

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