A forthcoming copyright bill backed by key U.S. senators would place file swappers in prison for up to three years if they have a copy of even one prerelease movie in their shared folders.
In addition to the prison term, the Artists' Rights and Theft Prevention Act would punish making such movies available on a public "computer network" as a federal felony with a fine of up to $250,000. It would not require that any copyright infringement actually take place.
Senators John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., plan to introduce the legislation at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Joining them at the event will be actress Bo Derek, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) President Jack Valenti, and Mitch Bainwol, chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America.
Hollywood studios have fretted for years about Internet distribution of prerelease movies, meaning films that have not appeared on DVD or in theaters. Footage of "Star Wars: Episode II," "Tomb Raider" and "The Hulk," has reportedly surfaced on peer-to-peer networks before their commercial distribution. In September, the major studios responded by halting their normal practice of sending DVD "screeners" to Academy Award judges.
A copy of the bill seen by CNET News.com, marked "Discussion Draft," represents one of the fiercest attacks yet on peer-to-peer networks from copyright holders' allies on Capitol Hill.