Friday, October 5, 2007

Four reasons why the RIAA won a jury verdict of $220,000 today | The Iconoclast - politics, law, and technology - CNET

Four reasons why the RIAA won a jury verdict of $220,000 today | The Iconoclast - politics, law, and technology - CNET

Poor Jammie Thomas. She ran afoul of the RIAA over copyright, got herself sued, and a jury of her so-called peers awarded the stinking-rich RIAA 222,000 US large. At issue was Thomas' making available 24 songs.

In reading some of the details of the case, it seems that Thomas probably didn't know that she was making the files available. However, for the RIAA to use such a big club, and for the courts and, - for God's sake, the jury - to punish her so badly is appalling. The problem lies in the nature and wording of the law, and the RIAA's policy to defend it's property ruthlessly.

The questions that need to be asked are: Who was damaged? How much were they damaged? How intentional was the infringement? Can the fact that the material was actually distributed be proven? Beyond damages, what is a reasonable fine?

Interestingly, none of these questions need be answered, because of the way the law is worded. Pretty much, all one needs to do is make something available for distribution, and that's that. And that's what Thomas did, intentionally or not.

This is bad. Bad law, and bad policy. Not so much because I think artists shouldn't be paid, but because I think it's not fair. I think Thomas should be punished - if not for electronic distribution of intellectual property, then for being stupid enough to make it easy for the RIAA to catch her.

I especially think it's bad because I keep thinking of human waste like the Britney Spears and [INSERT HIP-HOP ARTIST NAME HERE] who do nothing but pollute our culture and reap huge awards from it, through groups like the RIAA. And it seems they now have another $222,000 to play with. New grilles all around!

Should Thomas be punished? Yes. How much? The RIAA should have to prove how many of the 24 songs were actually downloaded, how many times, and then charge her the market rate for them - about a dollar apiece. The downside is that this might have turned out to be more than her actual fine, but at least the penalty would have some basis in proof, reality and reason. As it stands, the outcome is simply arbitrary.

It ain't fair, and it would be nice if lawmakers would recognize this.

UPDATE: See my comments on intellectual property in an earlier post.

Zebron and James