The No Electronic Theft Act

If you’ve ever used a peer-to-peer network and swapped copyrighted files, chances are pretty good you’re guilty of a federal felony. While the RIAA and MPAA have been using lawsuits to drive P2P filesharing websites like Napster, Audiogalaxy, and now (they are hoping) KaZaa out of business, a law already on the books, the No Electronic Theft (NET) Act, already provides severe penalties for endusers making use of such services. According to this article by Declan McCullogh, it is only a matter of time before the Feds start actually prosecuting P2P filesharing users under this act…

As far as I can tell from the article, as an ardent user over the years of Napster, AudioGalaxy, and now KaZaa and Soulseek, I have committed felonies that would merit my being jailed for three years, and assessed a fine of $250,000, many times over. So have millions of other American citizens.

What would be obscene (and immoral on good Kantian principles) would be for the government to prosecute a few “copyright violators” selectively, as an example to others. If they are going to actually enforce the NET Act, they ought to go after all ten or twenty million of us–an attempt to do which would, of course, bring the entire justice and prison systems to a state of complete paralysis. Selective enforcement of a law is unconstitional (since it violates equal protection) and unjust; a law that can only be enforced selectively is itself unjust.