US peer-to-peer file swappers are facing prison terms of up to three years and fines of up to $250,000 (£140,000) for sharing copies of films and songs that have not yet been released commercially.
Just having a single copy of a pre-release film or song in a shared folder for swapping could lead to the stiff prison term, even if the film hasn’t been downloaded by fellow file swappers.
The US Congress has approved the sentencing policy as part of a family entertainment and copyright law which has already cleared the Senate.
The bill now awaits the signature of president George Bush to become law.
The US entertainment industry has fought a war of attrition against peer-to-peer file swappers over the last couple of years, suing both adults and children for sharing films and music, which they have often downloaded from other peer-to-peer users.
The UK entertainment industry is also in the middle of a legal campaign against peer-to-peer users here.
On both sides of the Atlantic the legal campaigns have targeted users of copyrighted films and songs who put them in shared folders, available for others to access, and not at users who simply download material and don’t share it further.