The US entertainment industry received a boost in its fight against copyright infringement and file swappers last week with the passing of two proposed bills through the US Senate.
The Artists' Rights and Theft (Art) Prevention Act and the Pirate Act include stiffer penalties for pirates, and make it easier for federal authorities to prosecute copyright cases.
The legislation also gives the authorities an initial annual budget of $2m.
Piracy of pre-release works and the recording of films in a cinema for redistribution online or offline is covered by the Art Act.
A first offence could lead to three years in prison for just sharing such copyrighted works, increasing to five years if this was done for profit.
Repeat offenders could spend as long as 10 years behind bars and face a suit for damages from the entertainment industry.
The Pirate Act makes it easier to prosecute file swappers as it will allow the US Department of Justice to file civil lawsuits in copyright cases.
Currently, prosecutors need to show that defendants knew they were breaking the law. But in a civil case the only proof needed is that the infringement took place.
Both acts have to pass through the House of Representatives and receive presidential approval before coming into force, but the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is already rubbing its hands in anticipation.
Mitch Bainwol, chairman and chief executive at the RIAA, said in a statement: "I commend the passage of these common sense proposals that offer flexibility in the enforcement against serious crimes that damage thousands of hardworking artists, songwriters and all those who help bring music to the public.
"These acts will provide federal prosecutors with the flexibility and discretion to bring copyright infringement cases that best correspond to the nature of the crime, and will assure that valuable works that are pirated before their public release date are protected.
"Despite some encouraging signs, piracy continues to plague the music community. There is an essential role for education, enforcement by copyright owners, and federal prosecutions of the worst offenders."
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