back to article World's Dumbest File-sharer megafine gets DoJ thumbs-up

The US Department of Justice has given government backing to the $222,000 fine slapped on Minnesota woman Jammie Thomas. She was successfully sued by the Recording Industry Ass. of America earlier this year for illegaly sharing 24 songs. In a brief filed in federal court in Minnesota yesterday, acting assistant Attorney General …

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Proportionate?

So that one instance of that one song could have netted the bastards that much? Bollocks.

Try

compo = ( ( ( p + v ) / 2 ) * D) / C

Where p = production cost and v = online download price (since it is a download)

- This gives us a workable average value for the track.

D = downloads actually made of the copy, which theoretically could have been made legally, and

C = certainty of figures- if there is no certainty of the number of downloads or the value then how can there be any proportionality... Obviously a boolean

Of course, if I had my way, the whole thing would then be multiplied by 0 to get a truer compo amount.

The bastards

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Ash
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Boycott

$222,000 = £109,000 = Approx 7260 CD's at £15 each.

I say that you don't buy music for anybody this christmas. Give the RIAA something to think about, like their own redundency packages filtering away under consumer pressure.

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Gotta love the logic...

That says 'Oh hey you caught me so now I should just be fined what I normally would have had to pay' (i.e. the 70 cents per track). There has to be some punitive element to these fines or what's the point. May as well force all works of art (past, present and future) into the public domain and have done with it.

I guess that's what most fanatic file-sharer's believe in anyway.

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Sadly Misled

This woman has no idea! It's as if she imagined that the DoJ was a department of a goverment "for the people, by the people".

And the DoJ justifies the fine on the grounds that "it is unknown how many other users - 'potentially millions' - committed subsequent acts of infringement with the illegal copies of works that the defendant infringed". So if it's unknown, how do they justify the fine? Perhaps we could fine and imprison gun manufacturers on the grounds that it is unknown how many people - 'potentially millions' - are killed using the weapons they sell.

Come the revolution, brothers...

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Re: Will Leamon

"'Oh hey you caught me so now I should just be fined what I normally would have had to pay'"

Thats the way the law works according to the british government, as long as nobody is hurt and the correct amount of money can be exchanged / returned no further action should be taken.

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Haw haw.

You Americans and your funny little system of law!!!!

You gotta love it.

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For those with early onset dementia

Do you forget so easily that the fine was set so high (by the jury I hasten to add - i.e. her peers, not "the man") because she tried to destroy evidence?

No it's not proportionate to the cost to the RIAA - it's punitive to both punish her and to disincline other folk to try the same.

I'm no fan of the RIAA, but anyone sharing or downloading copyrighted material without paying the rights holder has no complaint if they get caught and fined. You know you're doing wrong - don't act like a 6 year old and whine about it.

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Alert

Couldn't agree more

@ Will Leamon - I really couldn't agree with you more. Even though I believe $220000 is absurdly excessive, the whole point of prosecution is to ake an example to deter others. Having her just hand over the cost of those 24 tracks would be stupid.

Even though I can't stand the RIAA's policies most of the time, I still come down on the side of the copyright holders over the woman trying to get something for nothing.

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I hate the RIAA, but...

This ignorant fool deserves everything she gets.

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This is a lose-lose situation

If you boycott the RIAA's music or just don't buy it because it sucks, then they will blame piracy and sue people, even innocent people, to stay in business.

If you buy the sorry music they try to force on us, you support their outmoded thinking.

Either way, we lose and the RIAA keeps trying to hang on to their archaic style of overpricing CD's, screwing artists, destroying originality, and crying foul. We can't win. Unless of course our $congress$ does something. Not likely, because some of their ill-gotten money goes to bribe the government.

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Pirate

Re:Gotta love the logic

@ Will Leamon

I doubt many would argue that some punitive element is required. Its merely the amount that is ridiculous when compared to the penalties levied for crimes against ordinary citizens.

Personally, I'll have no problem with filer-sharers getting £100,000 fines when muggers, burglars, car thieves, etc start getting whole-life sentences.

Fines like this against single offenders not sharing for profit just bring the whole anti-piracy lobby into disrepute.

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Not working...

If you think about it, RIAA and artists should be able to make more money suing filesharers than it does by making and selling music.

And once they've got a good system in place it might be even more efficient to simply roll out pro-forma lawsuits than it is to go through the expensive rigmarole of making music.

Its all bollocks anyway. Any band should be able to afford a decent quality recording and CD printing fees (its really not that expensive) and with a clever website all of the marketing and distribution costs could be avoided.

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Stop

don't sell your souls so cheaply...

A few people here are saying she got what she deserved, as she broke the law.

She did break the law, but her punishment is disproportionate to her crime. Sure, you can justify the fine being higher than the cost of buying the music, but not anywhere near as high as it is. This will probably ruin her life. Your response might be 'well she shouldn't have broken the law', well, next time you're caught speeding and are punished as if you'd killed someone while doing so then you might understand the position she is in.

This is all about business and politics, and nothing about justice. And that, my friends, is the American way.

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Rob
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Difficult one....

.... but I think the phrase of "so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable" should be taken into context.

I agree that just paying the costs of the tracks would not suffice as you do need to make an example of people to discourage further crimes. If it were me, fair enough I got caught doing something wrong, but if that figure was sterling I would be broke and homeless, which is far too excessive and from what I remember she's a single mother (someone else can verify that or not). Although in this country if she was a single mother that sort of fine would be pointless if she got house benefit, as she would never have any money to pay the fine, monthly or in a lump sum.

(Don't get me wrong I hate the Ass of Amecs as well)

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Ticket to leech!

The DoJ wrote: "Although [Thomas] claims that [RIAA] damages are 70 cents per infringing copy, it is unknown how many other users - 'potentially millions' - committed subsequent acts of infringement with the illegal copies of works that the defendant infringed."

So to sum up, they are saying is that the damages that the person who rips the disc has to pay reflect the damages for all the -subsequent- infringements by other people!!

Sweeeeeeeeeet, that means as long as you aren't ripping stuff and adding it to the networks (from a IP traceable to you, anyway), someone else will be picking up the tab for damages!!! Go DoJ!!!

I suddenly understand why the R.I. Ass of America, only hit her for 24 tracks... those must have been the only ones they could prove she'd ripped herself!! (I do seem to remember something about ripping times mentioned about the trial...)

Hopefully the case means there is now a legal precedence for "end user" sharers, since Jammie was let off scot-free for the other thousands of tracks they said she was sharing.

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Unhappy

What a farce

So, we have a court which no longer demands proof?

Its is simply sufficient to allege that (millions of??) others "might have" made further copies. WTF?

Kind-of "Don't bother doing the work to find out guys, you're safe with me" judgement.

This is the kind of court decision that wins a "bomb-the-bastards" president an election for which the entire world has to pay the dreadful costs.

Such stupidity cannot be left uncontrolled, whether you sympathise with the issue or not.

I agree with Ash, the only way to get back at them is to kick 'em where it is most painful - the pockets. An international boycott on music purchases at Christmas? Hmmm . . . and who's going to organise that one?

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Damages?

It still smells bad to me.

If insert a CD into my unix worstation and the CD device is marked r-x r-x r-- have I just infringed, given that multiple people have access to my host? If someone nfs exports my CD device, have I just infringed? How many times - the total number of people on the network?

In computer security terms a copy is not made by the owner of a file, it is made by the writer of a file - I "read" a file and then I create a "copy" somewhere else.

Its the downloaders who should be prosecuted, infringing once for every copy they make. Only then do you have proof of the damage done and prevent the airy-fairy "millions of crimes might have happened but we just don't know so we'll give you a whopping fine."

It looks like the classic, "sue someone we think we can beat regardless of the technicalities." Typical thinking from those who use the DMCA.

Of course if she had been copying CDs or had multiple copies of the files on her computers then you would have something to count. Making music available in a format which can be copied should not be a crime, otherwise all those companies producing music CD's should be in the dock for "facilitating infringement."

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Where will it end?

So looking at a bittorrent site right now, I see that there are 442 seeders and 105 leechers for Blake Lewis' Audio Daydream album (never heard of it!).

If this ruling is taken to it's natural conclusion, the industry could net itself a cool £59,623,000 ($1,203,400,00). Nice work.

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Alien

@AC

"I suddenly understand why the R.I. Ass of America, only hit her for 24 tracks... those must have been the only ones they could prove she'd ripped herself!! (I do seem to remember something about ripping times mentioned about the trial...)"

This seems to be the case... so long as your not the original source of the files then tough titties.

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Coat

Jammie Thomas......

Not so jammy any more!

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Pirate

Proportional madness.

"how many other users - 'potentially millions' - committed subsequent acts of infringement"

Surely that has to be irrelevant under natural justice.Say I have an illegally-held firearm and someone steals it and shoots someone: am I guilty of assault with a deadly weapon/murder/manslaughter? Natural justice says *no*.

And since when have "potential" *unprovable* offense been admissible directly. To take the same illegally-held firearm example, the *potential* for me to have committed other crimes related to the handgun has been built in to the penalties laid down for being guilty of holding the firearm illegally, and is proportionately reduced because of the uncertainty. If this prinicple is held to apply in other cases, you can end up with the system banning you from driving and throwing you in jail forever for just one speeding offense, because of the potential for you having exceeded the speed limit thousands of other times.

The fine has the potential to ruin the defendant for life. Is that a proportional punishment for the offense she was found guilty of? Sure, according to the RIAssA piracy is ruining the recording industry, but should every pirate pay the price for all of that? Or just for their portion of the responisibility.

If she attempted to pervert the course of justice, or committed perjury, that's a separate trial. If she was found in contempt of court, that's another separate issue.

It's ridiculous.

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Gates Horns

In Fairness to the DoJ

All they are saying is 'We have no clue" which is self-evident.

If the size of this fine is 'proportionate' as claimed, It should be compared to the damages paid by large companies for infringing the law. I hope we can expect the next anti-trust judgment or patent infringement carried out deliberately by a large corporation (you know you you are) to bankrupt that company and put them out of business, in the same way that this defendant will likely be bankrupted.

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Pirate

Yo Ho Ho Merry Christmas

(i should get a t-shirt or something for the title :D)

Who are the real pirates here ?

b. fig. and in extended use. A person or company who goes about in search of plunder; a freebooter, a marauder; a raider, a plunderer, a despoiler.

that is one of the definitions of Pirate.

Now Pirates are those who are morally corrupt because they are not sanctioned by an 'authority' i.e. a institution that has legitimized itself and it's laws through deception, violence and coercion (see government, religious body etc).

Now during what is commonly known by Historians as the age of piracy there was another type of Pirate... one which was recognized and sponsored by a government to commit acts of Piracy, they are known as;

Privateers;

3. An organization or person acting beyond official or social control for private gain; (in later use) spec. (depreciatively) an advocate or exponent of private enterprise.

this is a modern meaning for that term.

Now point to make here is that the Record Companies are privateers they illegally extort money from others but because they are sanctioned by governments they are not acting 'illegally'. the only difference between record companies and pirates is state sponsorship.

Now also take into account that these state sponsored privateers are units for wealth centralization they take from the individual, either musicians or consumer and then centralize that money and contribute to social inequality; who is the real villain the single mother who pirates music or the privateer that attempts to extort through music.

The issue here is that modern pseudo-democracies are just tools for legitimizing those private individuals who hold power like tyrants through the medium of money and extremist capitalism.

Are we to continue criminalizing one another whilst the state and it's friends legitimize there morally corrupt actions through written law ?

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Something for Nothing

Anyone claiming that she just wants something for nothing should take a look at a music recording contract.

These companies hold a monopoly position and use it to force the artists to hand over the rights to their work - that's right the ARTISTS. The people who actually produce the music that the RIAA claim to be protecting. The sooner their cartel is smashed and artists are fairly rewarded for their work the better.

Remember that next time you hear someone talk about protecting "rights holders".

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Anonymous Coward

It's all about revenge not justice

Yet another example of US law being all about revenge and not at all about justice. Justice is about being fair to the offender and the victim. You just have to look at the way in which US procecutors use the likes of terrorist and organised crime laws on just about anyone they can.

The sad thing is our politicians seem to want to do it over here now, why else would you start hearing Fathers for Justice and the speed camera vandals referred too as terrorists?

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Paris Hilton

DOJ is a weapon in the RIAA class war

While no one would argue that the guilty should be punished and that the punishment should fit the crime the fine here is unreasonable.

There have been cases where medical doctors have maimed patients and the fine awarded was less.

She should be allowed to declare bankruptcy like companies do when faced with a large fine except that under the current administration bankruptcy rules are different for corporations then they are for individuals with the main difference being that individuals can not wipe there debt any longer where as corporations can.

How come you never read or hear about the RIAA suing a Kennedy or a Clinton or a Bush? The answer is that the would not risk suing someone that might have as much influence as themselves in the DOJ or the resources to put up a real fight.

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Flame

Microsoft to blame!

Isn't that the normal line of cant around these parts?

Anyway she is a criminal, a particularly stupid criminal.

PS: Please stop it with the revisionist interpretation of law.

PPS: Please stop it with this obscene culture of entitlement. You're all just as bad as the RIAA.

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JC

False Logic

"it is unknown how many other users - 'potentially millions' - committed subsequent acts of infringement with the illegal copies of works that the defendant infringed."

Except that she didn't commit these crimes, and if they had rounded up and fined all those who did, the summed fine would be many times what the (even ridiculously high) initial estimate of loss was.

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Laughable

Can't believe the size of that fine, it really is beyond all sense of reason when you compare it to fines for assault, etc (certainly in the UK anyway).

If we do some dog rough calculations on what the RIAA could have coming to them if they go to town and pick everyone up:

208 million American internet users (2006 CIA numbers)

About 5% file sharing (general UK estimate I believe - someone else may have a better figure to use), so = 10.4 million people to sue

Average of say 50 songs each downloaded* (not a lot really, few albums) = 520 million songs to sue for

@ $9250 per song, that's...

$4,810,000,000,000

Alternatively put, that's equivalent to about 48% of America's entire GNP (again, 2006 CIA estimate).

Nice pay cheque...

*yes, they seem to be fingering her because she uploaded them, but uploading 50 trakcs isn't a lot for 5% of total users.

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Stop

Where did the headline "World's Dumbest File-sharer..." come from?

I have re-read the story and don't understand the headline "World's Dumbest File-sharer.. blah blah"....

ho is she the "World's Dumbest File-sharer"...?

Am i missing something?

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Stop

Totally out of proportion

The offender is, and should only be liable for damages for tracks she herself distributed personally - and then only for the number of instances to those she directly distributed the file to.

No further breaches of file-sharing by a third party to whom she had no knowledge or influence over should be relevant.

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Re: Gotta love the logic

The woman in question is not someone who has a great deal of "disposable" income, nor someone who has a great deal of knowledge of the law, nor of the Internet, and therefor would not logically be expected to understand the gravity of the possible consequences of copyright infringement. Hell, a lot of lawyers clearly don't understand it (nor, to judge form the actions of the RIAA's agents, are *they* especially concerned about the consequences of violating laws regarding kidnapping, which is a capital offense in the USA).

The "minimum" fine for 24 instances of copyright violation would have been $18, 000 which is just over 8% of the fine that was actually adjudged. The punishment is, indeed, vastly disproportionate to the offense, and in the unlikely event that the RIAA wins all 26,000 suits currently pending, should all of the fines levied be of similar proportions, the total of fines will come to $5,772,000,000 - that's 5.7 *billion* dollars.

The total production of all members of the RIAA for a very long period is not worth that much money.

This is precisely why I refuse to buy audio CDs produced by RIAA members (I do buy from indies) - that, and the fact that the content of RIAA-member CDs is universally dross.

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How disappointing

I'm willing to put money on El Reg having the headline "Jammie Dodger" ready for the alternate outcome.

The fine is ridiculous. How the record companies get the American law on thier side to this extent is beyond me. *cough*

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@Neil

I think Neil makea a valid point about speeding fines above: perhaps we need to have a STANDARD fixed penalty for individuals for each file uploaded; set at a figure which is more realistic.

To fine an individual into permanent penury for a relatively minor offence like this just makes mockery of copyright law in general, and HAS to ultimately lead to some kind of change in the law.

Who knows? Perhaps by pursuing this ridiculous case (and other like it), RIAA is going to force the legislature to re-examine the whole issue of copyright enforcement. Maybe in the end, they'll end up shooting themselves not just in the foot, but the head?

I'm a musician, and software developer, so I can appreciate the importance of copyright law and its enforcement, but personally, I'd rather have my music stolen than be murdered, and this ruling implies that murdering me is the lesser offence. Not terrible sensible, if you ask me.

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@Ross

If she DID try to destroy evidence then that is a legal matter to be taken as a CRIMINAL offense (unless you're an MP). This CIVIL case was about sharingsongs without the copyright holders' permission. Nothing about "destroying evidence" in that (and it cannot be tried there since it's a criminal rather than civil offence as I said earlier).

So the fine is incorrect because it is a fine for something she was not in court to answer for.

Nil points, ArseHole Jury.

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For the finger abuser

When did we last get a law that was as monumentally in favour of us as the DMCA/EUCD/etc?

When was the last time people in any sort of group got what they wanted, unlike the RIAA? (how many people marched against the Iraq war? How about those not wanting ID cards?)

So in what way are we as bad as the RIAA?

If they'd sued for $1000 it would have HURT. Especially just for 24 files. The rate of leecher on P2P can't be more than a score or two to one, so only about 40 copies were made. Now, remember that statutory licensing in the US is, IIRC, 3.1c per song per listener. This makes, as far as I can tell:

$(40x24x3.1/100) = $29.76.

Call it $30.

Now, obviously, THAT isn't much of a deterrent, but it is what they sell an ephemeral copy (i.e. one that they themselves do no make, transport, market or sell, so fairly close to what a home-brew P2P share would be for them). Remember, now, you can RECORD of the radio, so you get to keep the copy yourself.

And 128kbps MP3 is about as good as GOOD FM reception.

Seems fair.

Now, constitutionally, I think the limit is a four-fold for punishment. $120.

NOTE that in the UK you don't get to keep the recording, so it's closer to a real sale, but then again, it could be a USian downloading). However, you can't claim damges AND a punishment fine. Any punishment fine has to be done in a different court and this is, I believe, a criminal court matter.

But if they said they wanted to stamp this sort of thing out, they could go for 10x up to $1000 and then stay at that until the "real" loss as I calculated above got to $250, then go up at a 4x damages rate.

Mind you, I think that the damages part should go to a charity, not to the originator. If they kept it, they could not sue any others, since this may have already been compensated in the fine.

So for millions of people, those 24 tracks are alrady paid for, if the DOJ is correct...

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oligarchy

One has to remember that the USA is an plutocracy. It is run by the wealthy few for the benefit of the ruling few. The status isn't static - if someone makes it big and manages to acquire enough money they then have a say in how things are run. But money does rule. Exclusively.

Viewed in that light, the pattern is actually quite logical.

A large corporation making sub-standard software is found guilty of anti-competitive practices. However, because it is a large, successful company whose members are part of the plutocracy, the fines it pays in the USA are minimal compared to the proft it made abusing its position. The idea is to make people think the company is being punished, when in fact it is just being fined for getting caught.

An individual copies and shares a couple of dozen songs. Of course the corporations are going to succeed in driving that person into the ground with completely outlandish fines compared to the actual, provable damage. The individual is not a large corporation stealing millions, so the fine will be proportionately larger. The idea is to keep people in their place after all.

I was confused myself until I realized how the USA is run. So many of their actions make much more sense when viewed from the perspective that I'm looking at an plutocracy. Democracy is their battle cry, but unless you have the support of the ruling class you don't stand a chance at getting on the ballot, let alone getting elected. This also explains the ability of the US to justify supporting anti-democratic dictatorships in order to allow their corporations to profit, and so many other previously inexplicable actions.

So many of their laws, precedents and actions both internal and external are much more understandable when one does, indeed, follow the money.

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Dead Vulture

seriously pisses me off

Did she do something wrong. YES! Should she receive an appropriate punishment, Yes. Did she , NO. Where in the hell does the law now have the power to punish you for the possible actions of others. I must be missiing something here or otherwise it might just be paraniod thinking that the ARIAA are putting polotical pressure where needed to get the results they are after.

Looking at the punishments that seem to limp out of the court rooms for serious assaults and alike it you are better off breaking someone jaw, stealing a car, or setting fire to something, Hell drive 30Km over the speed limit in a school zone with no licence and the fines still don't stack up to ripping off one song based on that judgement

They say Lustice is supposed to be blind, it's not only blind it's a fucking retard

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Yes she broke the law

So why wasn't it a criminal court? Why have the RIAA or MPAA never asked for criminal charges to be pressed?

Simply because the burned of proof is much higher and the way they collect the evidence would cause it to be ruled inadmissable.

The fine size is stupid, the reasoning behind it - hey, millions of other people could have downloaded it (so surely the fine should be totaling approx $1 million per track?) is absurd.

I was always of the view that you commit a crime, you go to a criminal court.

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Anonymous Coward

human life = 1/6 of a song

I once left a pub and started driving home in a state of mind that clearly endangered other peoples lives. I was arrested and ultimately had to pay a fine of $1,500.00. That implies that it is six times worse to share a single song on the internet then to endanger other peoples lives.

Granted, the actual fine for me was larger and most of it was waived since it was my first offence. Granted I'm not including the community service and a few other parts of my sentence. But, I could have killed any number of people and my punishment was a fraction of this womans.

I deserved every bit of my sentence and more. This woman does not.

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I will never buy a CD again

Why should I support the RIAA?

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Unhappy

The lesson learnt is

Its better to mug an old man and buy a copy than to share it on the net. At least according to the punishment.

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2 points

1. The purpose of compensation is to compensate. I.e. it is intended to put the plaintiff back in the position it would have been in had the defendant not committed the act in question. The burden of proof to of damage is firmly on the shoulders of the plaintiff. In this case they cannot even prove she would have bought the tracks herself if she had not downloaded them. Nor can they prove anyone who downloaded tracks she uploaded would have bought them. Therefore there is no provable damage arising from the breach of copyright.

Accordingly, the plaintiffs should be awarded costs and the defendant should be issued with an injunction to prevent further breaches of copyright. Breach of this injunction would be contempt of court and could be dealt with accordingly.

This result proves that "justice" can be bought. It is a sorry indication of the state of the legal system. (Although I have always believed the American system, where a jury decides the amount of damages and not just the fact of damage to be messed up.)

2. The business model of the recording industry is shot. Everybody knows it. Even the lumbering dinosaurs in the corner offices of the big four know it. Time to recognise the need to discount direct music sales as a source of revenue and exploit other revenue streams stemming from free distribution of music. (Performance fees, Merchandise, Endorsements, Advertising spots... )

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Stop

Times are a changing.

Democrazy at its finest.

How can case with such INSANELY disproportionate damages not be seen for what it is?

I just confirms my long help belief that Law is for those who can afford it.

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Anonymous Coward

@tony & British law.

For civil actions there's no punitive aspect but the award would be based on damage done, damage is not just the market value of the items involved.

There are other aspects, not least, the legal costs of bringing the action in the first place. A victim shouldn't be left worse off because of the cost of the legal system.

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Millions of downloads?

Where in the US does there exist an ISP that, for the amount this woman could afford to pay, provides sufficient upload bandwidth for each of those songs to have been copied millions of times? I suspect even in Tokyo that would be difficult. In the US? fuggedaboutit.

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@oligarchy

<sigh> All so true, and so sad...

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Anonymous Coward

F.U. RIAA

Why doesn't she just accept the fine, sign everything she has (not much) over to her kid(s) and plead bankruptcy.

No jail, no fine, no problem.

A big F.U. to the RIAA and their civil case.

Of course she could have just paid the couple of thou that the RIAA wanted from her in first place, to make it go away. But it's good that she made a stand.

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Pirate

@Yeah, right

Astute observation, sir. Few people in the US realize that they live under plutocratic rule, because they're brainwashed by their TVs to believe that only wedge issues are important. I actually think the US is closer in spirit to feudalism than anything else.

There's no way this fine is reasonable. Here's hoping those dinosaurs in the RIAA meed with a speedy demise.

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Paris Hilton

>Why doesn't she sign everything she has over to her kids and plead bankruptcy.

Tragically bankruptcy law covers this, there was a case in the news a few weeks back where a divorced woman was being sued for part of the divorce settlement after her husband went bankrupt shortly after the divorce.

It's so that people who are going bankrupt don't conceal their assets to the detriment of their creditors, as you are suggesting.

Paris, because even she must know this one.

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