How much is that MP3 Download Worth? How about $80,000?!?

I am a staunch anti-piracy fighter: I engage in forum discussions about it on a regular basis, and also being a hardcore PC gamer I see the direct impact of piracy on that hobby. I see how it has impacted where developers target their games, how many top-level PC games are released, and the increasingly draconian DRM schemes used to try to thwart piracy … most of which simply punish honest customers. I constantly rail against piracy and try to stop folks from doing it when I can. That said, I have absolutely no love for the RIAA , the music industry, the game and movie publishers, and others who seek to extol punishments greater for downloading a song or movie or game than is given out for selling drugs to kids on schoolyards! So what happens when a pirate and the RIAA meet in court?

In yet another case where the punishment far from fits the crime, Jammie Thomas-Rasset was again found guilty in civil court of copyright infringement of 24 copyrights held by the four record companies making the case. The damages awarded were $1.92 million – which breaks down to $80,000 per song. This is substantially increased from the just over $9,000 per song she was found liable for in the first case, and is at least partially due to new evidence showing that Thomas-Rasset not only pirated the songs in question but has been evasive and untruthful with investigators rather than cooperating. In fact, after getting caught and notified of the fact, she took her PC in and got the hard drive replaced and then lied under oath twice that she had replaced it earlier. That was part of her innocence defense, which makes it hard to have any sympathy for her, quite honestly.

There is no doubt that Thomas-Rasset is guilty of pirating music against the DCMA and also of copyright infringement based on what we know. And I think she should be punished for those crimes … but in a fashion proportionate to the crime. The crime is copyright infringement because she not only possessed the copyrighted materials from illegal downloads but also offered them out, and an RIAA downloader recorded her information when downloading the files. Copyright infringement, when willful, carries a fine of $750 – $150,000 per instance.

So what do you think? Should she have quit while she was behind? Does the punishment fit the crime? What SHOULD the punishment be for not just downloading, but distributing pirated materials?

Source: Ars Technica

Categories: Editorials, Music Diary