18 November 2008


A lawyer is challenging the music industry's anti-piracy lawsuits, proposing alternate solutions and charging that:
...the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 is unconstitutional because it effectively lets a private group - the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA - carry out civil enforcement of a criminal law.
and that:
...the music industry group abused the legal process by brandishing the prospects of lengthy and costly lawsuits in an effort to intimidate people into settling cases out of court.

I'm not certain about the implications, though. RIAA really does seem to have morphed into a vindictive, petulant organization, but those who knowingly downloaded illegally DID break the law. But fining college students hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars? (And so on with the "buts" - back and forth, back and forth...)

In a way, I think it's kind of like seat belt violations: it's a common violation; most of the time nothing happens; and the potential costs to others are huge. And actually, seat belt violations are more important, in a life-and-death way.

On the other hand, there's nothing inherently wrong with not buckling yourself up; whereas there's definitely something inherently bad about wrongly possessing someone else's property. That's where my problem lies. I don't think I have any legal objection to people doing whatever they please with their own property, for their own use.

While the fines and lawsuits are simply ridiculous, there has to be a penalty for wrongful property possession - especially doing so knowingly.

Maybe the problem isn't with the legal system, per se... maybe it's with judges and juries who issue such outlandish fines.

And with the whiny, maliciously-behaving RIAA.

And with the whiny downloaders who - while seeming apathetic rather than malicious - obviously don't have a real principle to cling to.


its just me said...

I have to agree with you on this one too Kannie. There should be a penalty/fine for breaking the law but the punishment far outweighs the crime.

Jennifer Dunn said...

It will be interesting to see what happens with this lawsuit.

I've never heard of anyone actually getting caught illegally downloading music.

In theory, the idea that anyone who breaks the law should receive a punishment that fits the crime is absolutely correct. If people were fined for stealing a 99 cent song similar to the way banks give you a fine for over-drafting your bank account, I'd guess more people would be willing to pay the $1 download fee.

Practically speaking--how would it be done? Maybe it's more possible than I'm giving credit for. After all, banks do keep a remarkably accurate record of every penny you spend. But then, the enforcing of such fines would probably cause some to cry out about their right to privacy.

I can think of endless arguments on both sides, but a little honesty on the side of the downloaders and fair penalties from RIAA couldn't hurt.