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Setting a Trap for Net Pirates

March 17, 2004|Jon Healey | Times Staff Writer

State Sen. Kevin Murray has a plan for fighting online piracy: just ask the pirates who they are.

The Culver City Democrat is pushing a bill that would require California file sharers to attach their real names and addresses to the copyrighted goodies they let others download over networks like Kazaa and Morpheus.

If they don't, Murray says, they should be jailed for up to a year and fined as much as $2,500.

And what would stop file sharers from just sticking Murray's name and address on their files? Murray says the point isn't to take names; his idea is to give state prosecutors, who have no jurisdiction over copyright infringement, a charge they can bring against online pirates.

Vans Stevenson, a Motion Picture Assn. of America lobbyist, noted that numerous states require vendors of VHS tapes and albums to label products with their names and addresses to combat bootleg sales.

Opponents said the bill would turn the most casual file sharers into criminals. "We shouldn't be passing laws that essentially require us to give up our privacy" as a punishment for potentially violating copyright law, said Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Murray countered, "There's one way to maintain your privacy in my bill. That is not to engage in illegal activity."

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