Michael Jackson has spoken out against new legislation that would make it a federal felony to download copyrighted material.

The act, called the "Authors, Consumer and Computer Owners Protection and Security Act of 2003" (ACCOPS) Act is under consideration by the US House of Representatives. It was proposed to the House by US Congressmen John Conyers Jr and Howard Berman.

The passing of the act would make downloading copyrighted material an imprisonable offence. More information about the act is available.

Pop mega-star Jackson is emphatic in his opposition to the act. he said: "I am speechless about the idea of putting music fans in jail for downloading music. It is wrong to illegally download, but the answer cannot be jail."

Jackson called on artists, the music industry and consumers to find a solution together. He said: "Here in America we create new opportunities out of adversity, not punitive laws, and we should look to new technologies, like Apple's new iTunes Music Store for solutions. This way innovation continues to be the hallmark of America."

Digital downloads are acquiring currency, with a host of vendors, including Amazon and Buy.com launching or preparing to launch digital music download services. A legal music buying system is emerging.

Despite Apple's success with its Music Store, the market is still in its infancy. Billboard this week published its first digital-downloads chart. The top track in the chart won through on just 1,500 sales, while the tenth-placed song earned 500 downloads. This indicates that digital-music buyers purchase a wide spectrum of music, possibly unavailable in any but the largest brick-&-mortar music retail outlets.

A Slate article states: "Billboard says that Apple, the most aggressive player in this market so far, is selling an average of 500,000 tracks a week. If that's true, and it takes just 1,500 sales to be number one, then the variety of tracks that people are downloading must be extremely broad – particularly compared with, say, the variety of tracks that make up a typical Top 40 station's play list."

A recent (July 15) NPD Group survey concluded: "It is incumbent upon record labels and music retailers, however, to really listen to the concerns of music buyers, in order to provide them with the kind of music product they're willing to pay for."

Jackson ended his passionate opposition to the ACCOPS Act, saying: "It is the fans that drive the success of the music business; I wish this would not be forgotten."