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The NET Act
On Tuesday, December 16, 1997 President Bill Clinton signed into law the "No Electronic Theft Act of 1997," after it was passed unanimously by both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. The law is usually referred to as the "NET Act," and was designed to give more attention to digital copyright and trademark laws.
Although written in complex legislation-type language, the meaning of the NET Act is simple: making unauthorized copies of copyrighted intellectual property such as music recordings, movies, and computer programs is against the law and may subject you to civil and criminal liability. Under this law pirates can receive a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each work that is infringed.
The Recording Industry Association of America has a plain-language comprehensive explanation of the NET Act. Although the RIAA's concern is music, recognize that their explanation also applies to other types of copyrighted works.