If it’s any kind of misdeed at all (which remains very much open to question), it’s breach of copyright, a purely commercial matter, as in breaking a contract or infringing a patent.
Compared to child abduction or arson, say, it’s a peccadillo — a civil matter of relatively minor importance.
And yet the entertainment industry has successfully elevated copyright transgressions to the level of genuine crime with penalties which are at the same time bizarre and barbaric, particularly when compared to true law-breaking.
For example, Jammie Thomas-Rassett, a hard-working Minnesota mother, is currently appealing a decision arrived at in a civil court. It orders her to find close to $2 million for allegedly sharing 24 songs online.
But someone who kidnaps a child faces a maximum of $175,699.
On Recording Industry vs the People, Ray Beckerman points to a paper by professor Pamela Samuelson and research fellow Tara Wheatland of the University of California Berkeley School of Law on copyright act statutory damages.
In it, they say »»»
The United States is an outlier in the global copyright community in giving plaintiffs in copyright cases the ability to elect, at any time before final judgment, to receive an award of statutory damages, which can be granted in any amount between $750 and $150,000 per infringed work.
U.S. copyright law provides scant guidance about where in that range awards should be made, other than to say that the award should be in an amount the court considers just, and that the upper end of the spectrum — from $30,000 to $150,000 per infringed work — is reserved for willful infringers.
Although Congress intended this designation to apply only in exceptional cases, courts have interpreted willfulness so broadly that those who merely should have known their conduct was infringing are often treated as willful infringers.
Jammie knows all about that.
But a Chicago blog, Gapers Block, really puts the Vivendi Universal, EMI, Warner Music and Sony Music file sharing mockery into context, kicking off with:
“If you haven’t heard yet, it’s ‘illegal’ to download music online without ‘paying’ for it. It’s hard to believe, but being a fan isn’t accepted as legal payment anymore. They call it ‘piracy,’ and the consequences for it can be very, very dire. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of other crimes that I suggest you look into before you decide to download ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ or ‘Poker Face.’
Conor McCarthy goes on:
“One final thing to keep in mind here: Obama promised hope and change, and he certainly brought it in the case of piracy and the RIAA. In between stints of walking on water and saving us from ourselves, Barack has appointed five RIAA lawyers to positions in the ‘justice’ department, in addition to upholding the federal limit of $150,000 per instance of piracy.”
Actually, it’s more than five. But who’s counting?
So what can compare to file sharing?
Since I mentioned them earlier, how about child abduction and arson?
Says Gapers Block »»»
1. Steal Music? No! Steal a child, preferably from a recording artist. That’s right, the fine for regular old, Class 4 Felony child abduction is $25,000. It can also include one to three years in prison. So, if you get spanked as hard as possible after ganking a silly named celebrity child, you’ll be down $175,699.
And arson? »»»
4. Set Lars Ulrich’s house on fire. Being a pyro sounds fun. You get to see lots of pretty flames, hear fun explosions, and watch things get destroyed. Plus, doesn’t Metallica have a song about setting shit on fire? They probably do, it’s Metallica. What could go wrong? Not as much as if you decided to pirate music. Arson is another Class 2 felony. ($376,631)
The Big 4 labels use their RIAA — Recording Industry Association of America — to terrorise American families across the country. But with the possible exception of Warner Music, ostensibly American but in fact run by a Canadian, the Big 4, which singly and collectively own and control virtually every corporate music label in the world, aren’t even American.
In order of size, the other three are »»»
- Vivendi Universal (France)
- Sony (Japan)
- EMI (Britain)
They say files shared equal sales lost, and that every time someone shares a song with someone else, it’s exactly the same as if they’d walked into a store and stolen a CD or DVD off the shelf.
Both claims are utterly ridiculous, and obviously so, but the lamescream media parrot them just as though they’re accurate and factual and emanate from reliable and credible sources.
On ‘stealing’ a CD, a la the Big 4 and their RIAA, “Damn, that new Black Eyed Peas song is infectious, am I right?” – asks Gapers Block, adding »»»
That chorus is so genius; “boom boom boom,” who thinks of that? I want to steal it. So instead of Kazaa, I’m going to swipe it from Best Buy. Retail theft of less that $150 (which is like, what, 10 CD’s?) is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty? Up to one year in jail and/or a fine of $2,500. At most you’d be down about $52,500. Definitely manageable. If it exceeds $150 though, you’re in for a Class 3 felony. That bad boy will result in two to five years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine, so you’re risking approximately $275,000.
Beats $2 million though, huh?
It do, don’t it?
Stacked against RIAA vs traditioinal crimes, the other four, as summarised by prefix, are
- Rob your neighbor: the fine is $375,000
- Stalk someone: The fine is $175,000
- Start a dogfighting ring: the fine is $50,000
- Murder someone: The maximum penalty is only $25,000 and 15 years in jail, and depending on your yearly salary, would probably be far slighter a penalty that $2 million.
No need to stay tuned.
Jon Newton – p2pnet
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Recording Industry vs the People – Updated and revised version of scholarly article by Samuelson & Wheatland posted today, August 22, 2009
Two million dollars !!! – RIAA Jammie case: `biggest black eye ever`, July 11, 2009
Gapers Block – Seven Crimes to Consider Before Music Piracy, August 17, 2009
more than five – US government backs $1.92M Thomas verdict, August 15, 2009
prefix – Seven Crimes That Will Get You a Smaller Fine than File-Sharing, August 21, 2009
Use free p2pnet newsfeeds for your site. It`s really easy!
Subscribe to p2pnet.net | | rss feed: http://p2pnet.net/p2p.rss | | Mobile – http://p2pnet.net/index-wml.php
Net access blocked by government restrictions? Use Psiphon from the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. Go here for details.