Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Commission on Theft of American Intellectual Property Proposes Malware Plan for Combating Copyright Infringement


Many computer users are haunted by the idea that they may be violating copyright laws. Not everyone on the web is tech-savvy, and numerous programs make downloading possibly illegal content easier than ever. Couple the ease and accessibility of illegal downloading with confusing copyright laws, and you have a recipe for illegal activity, even if the downloader is not intentionally infringing copyright laws. This week, the Internet is buzzing with news regarding a new proposal for combating infringing activity on the internet. The proposal is novel, invasive, and sounds like illegal activity in and of itself, but nevertheless has been introduced to the United States Government.

The Next Web reports that the US entertainment industry is getting behind a plan to send malware—software made to interrupt computer operation—to alleged infringers. The plan was unveiled in a proposal by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, which was submitted to the US Federal Government. The plan would include installing software on computers that would identify whether the computer’s user was engaging in infringing activity, and would cause a “lockdown” of the computer by locking up the files until the “guilty party” turned his or herself into authorities. The proposal also includes the idea that the computer could be locked down with the condition that it would be unlocked when the user contacted authorities—effectively confessing to engaging in copyright infringement. An even more invasive part of the proposal suggests that the malware would include a program for snapping a photo of the computer user with his or her webcam.

The Next Web notes that even Japan, which is known for treating copyright infringement with a solid hand, has not resorted to the tactics in the proposal. File sharing has been illegal in Japan since 2012, and plan to crack down on infringing activity include imprisonment and “honey trap files” which are files made to look like popular television shows that contain alerts regarding the illegality of copyright infringement. has also weighed in on the Commission’s proposal, noting that the malware could enable entertainment companies and other copyright holders to do other invasive things, such as gathering, changing, and destroying data from a network, all without the permission of the computer’s user. Even with all this activity in mind, the proposal touts that it would not violate any current laws, but would rather act to stabilize a situation and get authorities involved. However, it is unclear whether the portion of the proposal designed to infect and destroy a computer falls into the “still legal” category.

In any event, both The Next Web and appear to mirror the sentiment of many computer users, which is that such extensive and novel measures have come to be expected from the entertainment industry and other copyright holders. Still, the idea that downloading a movie or music might result in not only the destruction of one’s computer, but the immediate response of authorities and an instant confession to illegal activity is one that will not sit comfortably with many computer users.  

Copyright laws are constantly changing, and your activity on the web may be subject to legal action. If you have been contacted by anyone regarding a violation of copyright laws, your first line of defense is to contact an experienced copyright defense attorney. Call the law office of Edward R. Molari today for a confidential consultation.