The No Electronic Theft (NET) Act focuses primarily on illegal distribution of intellectual property over the Internet. Prior to the 1997 NET Act, copyright infringement only occurred when an individual or business willfully abused someone else's registered copyright for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain. However, under the NET Act, you may be found guilty of a federal crime even if you act without commercial purpose and receive no private financial gain.

What Is a Violation of the NET Act?

Online piracy has serious criminal and civil consequences. Under the NET Act, you may not reproduce, distribute, or share copies of electronic copyrighted works (such as songs, movies, games, or software programs). You may be charged in accordance with the NET Act, if you have:

  • Distributed copyrighted files over the Internet;
  • Uploaded copyrighted software to a Web site; or
  • Posted information regarding the availability of the uploaded and copyrighted software.

How Will I Be Penalized for Violating the NET Act?

Your actions may be criminally punishable under the NET Act and you could be required to:

  • Serve a maximum penalty of five years in prison, or ten years if the offense is your second;
  • Pay a maximum criminal fine of $250,000; and
  • Face civil liability and pay damages of up to $150,000 per work infringed, actual damages, or lost profits (whichever is greater).

In addition to the penalties described above, guilty defendants in recent NET Act cases have been sentenced to:

  • Home confinement;
  • Probation;
  • Internet restrictions; and
  • Community service.

Do I Need A Lawyer?

If you are concerned about whether you violated the NET Act, you should discuss your past actions and current situation with an experienced intellectual property lawyer.  If you are facing criminal changes for violating the NET Act, you should speak with a white collar crime attorney immediately.  A lawyer is in the best position to advise you of your rights, to help you determine the best course of action, and to represent you in court, if necessary.