Consequences and Limitations of the No Electronic Theft Act of 1997

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No Electronic Theft (NET) Act of 1997: Its Consequences and Limitations Recent congressional proposal to pass the Stop Online Internet Piracy (SOPA) Act was one of the latest attempts by copyright owners and their supporters in Congress to criminalize intellectual property theft through the use of the Internet. The bill has not passed yet partly because of public concerns that the Act could have adversely affect the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech. These concerns over intellectual property theft as well as the potentially negative consequences of copyright protection legislations, however, are not new in the digital age. The debate over electronic theft began during 1990s when increasing number of Americans began to gain access to the Internet. To protect copyright owners, the Congress in 1997 passed No Electronic Theft (NET) Act. It was a logical response from Congress given the fact that the Internet could be used to violate copyright laws on a massive scale unless properly regulated through appropriate legislation. However, the NET Act also turned out to be largely ineffective and its scope reached beyond what was justified. In 1994, a twenty-one-year old student named David LaMacchia at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed an Internet board where he encouraged others to upload copyrighted software programs like Excel 5.0, WordPerfect 6.0 and games like Sim City 2000. LaMacchia then gave access to others who could download these
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