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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 08:45 GMT 09:45 UK
US bill aims to jail film pirates
night vision goggles
Staff at UK cinemas use night vision goggles to detect film pirates
Using video cameras to record films in cinemas would become a federal crime punishable by up to six years in prison under a proposed US bill.

It would also make it easier to prosecute internet users who illegally distribute music and copyrighted works.

The Piracy Deterrence and Education Act urges the FBI to warn people whose web accounts are used for illegal activity.

Passed on Tuesday by the US House of Representatives, the Senate is expected to consider the proposal next week.

No witness

Ten US states already prohibit people recording movies inside cinemas.

The bill would make the act a felony, which would permit local and state police to make arrests even when officers do not witness the illicit recording.

There seems to be a belief among America's youth... that copyright piracy is either an acceptable activity or one that carries a low risk of penalties
Rep James Sensenbrenner, House of Representatives judiciary committee chair
Pirates would face up to three years in prison for a first offence, and up to six years for later arrests.

"There seems to be a belief among America's youth... that copyright piracy is either an acceptable activity or one that carries a low risk of penalties," said congressman James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the house judiciary committee.

The bill makes it easier for internet users who illegally distribute more than 1,000 copyrighted files to be prosecuted.

Lesser requirement

US law currently requires prosecutors to prove that an internet user "wilfully" distributed music and movie files illegally.

Some users previously said they were unaware that by downloading files from certain networks onto their computers, they were making those files available to others

Under the new bill, prosecutors would have to prove that internet users "knowingly" distributed copyrighted materials with a "reckless disregard" that others might also copy them.

The bill also offers copyright protection for technology that helps parents prevent children from watching movie scenes depicting sex, violence or foul language.

In the UK, Vue Cinemas chain equipped its staff with night vision goggles in May to enable them to detect film pirates.

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