Michael Jackson condemns music piracy bill. The idea of jailing music fans leaves him ''speechless''

By Gary Susman
July 22, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Michael Jackson: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/Newscom

Now that Congress is joining the record industry in cracking down on Internet music piracy, file-swappers have a new ally: Michael Jackson. The King of Pop issued a statement Monday condemning a bill introduced last week that would make illicit file-swapping of even one song a federal felony punishable by a $250,000 fine and five years behind bars. ”I am speechless about the idea of putting music fans in jail for downloading music,” Jackson said. ”It is wrong to illegally download, but the answer cannot be jail.”

Last week, Congressmen John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.) proposed the Author, Consumer, and Computer Owner Protection and Security Act of 2003 (ACCOPS Act), which, besides lowering the bar for what constitutes a file-swapping felony, would also make it a federal offense to record a movie in a theater with a camcorder. The move comes at a time when the Record Industry Association of America has issued nearly 900 subpoenas against individuals and Internet service providers for file-swapping lawsuits.

In his statement, Jackson urged the industry to find a private, rather than government-imposed, solution to stopping piracy. ”Here in America we create new opportunities out of adversity, not punitive laws and we should look to new technologies, like Apple’s new Music Store for solutions. This way innovation continues to be the hallmark of America. It is the fans that drive the success of the music business; I wish this would not be forgotten.”