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February 10, 2005

It's a better deal to steal the new Beck CD than download it!

As a writer, I expect protection of my copywritten work, and I want laws preventing others from gaining such for free without my permission. Still, there is protection, and there is justice.

Off the Shelf has a very well-written comparison on the disparity between punishments for shoplifting and illegal downloading.

Examples include:

*The minimum punishment for shoplifting is no punishment, $0 and no jail time, while the minimum punishment for "infringing" (illegal downloads) is $4,400.

*The absolute maximum punishment for stealing is $100,000 fine and a year in jail, while the maximum for infringing is $3,400,000, a year in jail and lawyer fees and costs.

*In the Winona Ryder case, the adorable criminal got a $2,700 fine, paid $6,355 in restitution, $1,000 in court costs and 3 years of probation. By contrast, the average Recording Industry Association of America settlement is $14,875.

I join the author of this inciteful article in asking "Am I alone in thinking there is something really, really wrong here?"

Posted by Dan at February 10, 2005 08:52 AM

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The whole situation is wrong on so many different levels.

And it isn't even just about theft anymore, although one side frames it that way.This battle is really about creation, control and distribution of artistic content.

Furthermore, there are three parties to this dispute, but only two are in court. One party, the plaintiff, is fronted by the RIAA and the MPAA. The other party, the defendant, is a proxy for the consumers of creative content.

Where is the proxy for the creative artists?

The RIAA and MPAA purport to represent them when they talk about theft. But the fact is, most artists make very little, if not nothing, from the present system.

On the other hand, file-sharing technologies represent their best shot at making money from their creations by going directly to the consumer and cutting out the middle man.

Except now, the middle man wants to make that illegal.

Go figure.

Posted by: Ara at February 10, 2005 11:27 AM

Ummm Dan? Are you encouraging stealing with that title?

C'mon now! That was funny... Er at least it was suppose to be...

Posted by: Cam at February 10, 2005 12:10 PM

What Ara said.

Oh, and inciteful? Do you really think the article will make people run out and riot? :)

Posted by: folkbum at February 10, 2005 02:27 PM

I sure hope they do. You grammar and spelling nazis are brutal. :)

Posted by: Ralph at February 10, 2005 08:27 PM

I was just waiting for someone else to pick this one up. See, I've never been a big fan of the RIAA because they took such a rabidly aggressive approach instead of spreading the word about copyright infringement and funding legal alternatives, but I could never prove that they went too far.

So why can't we, uh...make sense, here? The punishment is supposed to fit the crime. Artists generally make new CD's with 10-15 tracks on them and sell them for $15-20. Worst case scenario, it's $2 damage done per illegally downloaded track. Even the worst downloaders, approaching 10,000+ files couldn't break the $50,000 barrier, yet the RIAA is allowed to sue them for up to $180,000. And now there's this note that they HAVE to pay up if they're caught once, even if it's only a few hundred tracks, causing no more than $2,000 damage (making the penalty double the damage done, leaving the extra cash as a deterrent -- direct governmental manipulation). Most of this is due to the insanely restrictive DMCA, which can prevent legal activity and classify illegal downloaders as terrorists.

I'm not sure which is worse right now -- the DMCA or the USA Patriot Act. Both set the foundation for a police state, one empowering the authorities, and another scaring the crap out of our future leaders. It's frightening when you do the math and make the connections. Is it a surprise that 1/3 of our high school children are willing to give up their right to free speech? Frankly, I expected that.

Posted by: Alex D. at February 10, 2005 10:37 PM

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