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Considering a Fair Penalty For Illegal File-sharing

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the if-there-is-such-a-thing dept.

Piracy 728

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt, following up on yesterday's announcement of the 1.5 million dollar verdict against Jammie Thomas: "This week a federal jury handed down the verdict in the third file-sharing trial against a Minnesota mother of four who has been fighting against the charges brought by the RIAA since 2005. Understandably, a lot of people are outraged by this verdict and while reading through comments about the fine on some online forums, I saw some interesting opinions on how these fines should be assessed. The point that $62,500 per song is excessively high seems to be something that everyone can agree on, but what actually is fair seems to be a big point of contention."

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Hang on... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143200)

No monetary figure will be fair. Choosing any amount will allow those rich enough to simply ignore the law.
The only fair way to make it is if anyone (person, organisation or company) commits copyright infringement they are
financially ruined and bankrupted. That is the only way such a law can be equally fair to everyone. Yes its unfair but
it is equally unfair to everyone and not just the poorer people.

Re:Hang on... (2, Interesting)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143310)

The rich will still be able to afford enough lawyers to make sure they never loose if they are ever sued for infringement.

Re:Hang on... (5, Insightful)

Kenneth Stephen (1950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143324)

Thats not the way the justice system is supposed to work: the punishment must fit the crime. For example, one could mandate the death penalty for something like littering in order to deter even the rich from littering. This would certainly meeting the criteria of being equally unfair to everyone, but it isn't justice. Justice is about being fair to everyone - not the opposite.

Re:Hang on... (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143478)

Some countries set fines as a % of the income/wealth of the person fined. Why do you find that unfair? It makes sure that everyone can afford the fine, while also making sure that no-one can afford to keep getting fined without even noticing the amount they have to pay.

Re:Hang on... (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143578)

Because taking 10% from me is nothing like taking 10% from a minimum wage earner. I would put less in savings or go out less, he might not be able to eat.

Community service is far more fair.

Re:Hang on... (3, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143392)

Choosing any amount will allow those rich enough to simply ignore the law.

You have inadvertently re-invented the US judicial system. Bad AC, bad!

Re:Hang on... (2)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143510)

How about torturing and killing not only the accused but every member of their extended family currently living within the US? As well as their friends and their friends' families. Would that be fair enough for you? Or for audio material you could surgically remove their eardrums and cilia or any other procedure that would make them permanently deaf. For sharing visual media you could also remove their eyes with a fork and make them eat them. You wouldn't have to imprison them. Once they are blind and deaf they are unlikely to be repeat offenders. Although if you then catch them singing a copyrighted song you may be forced to remove their vocal cords and cut out their tongues. For enforcement we could post a specially trained law enforcement officer to every home in the nation in addition to surveillance cameras in every room which would be monitored by the Department of Homeland Freedom 24 hours a day, just in case the LEO missed something or was bribed. Another option would be to abolish copyrights but surely we can't have that. And before anyone mentions The Constitution, let me say that if the founding fathers had intended to prevent such things they would have specifically mentioned them in the Bill of Rights. Anything not mentioned there is a privilege kindly granted to us by our benevolent government. The privileges of watching films, listening to music, and even reading books can all be revoked at any time.

Ill gotten gains (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143214)

Let the convicted turn over the proceeds from their crime to the victim. Problem solved.

Re:Ill gotten gains (5, Funny)

IB4Student (1885914) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143252)

This, plus 10% or something.

Re:Ill gotten gains (0)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143340)

If this person didn't try to resell it and only seeded it for free, then it works out to be circa 0 + 10%

Re:Ill gotten gains (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143390)

Woosh!

Re:Ill gotten gains (0, Troll)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143436)

So, if I steal half a dozen cars from the local car dealer and give them to people, I get no punishment at all. My "proceeds" are exactly 0. In fact, there is some cost out of my pocket; do you think maybe the car dealer should have to reimburse me for expenses?

Really, there is the concept of damages and punitive damages in existing law. If all you got reimbursed for was the actual amount of damages, then people who commit the offences would, on average, profit, because they, on average, don't get caught all the time.

That's not saying that $1.5 mil is a good judgement, just that "proceeds" is a very poor way to levy fines or jury awards in civil cases.

Re:Ill gotten gains (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143604)

If you steal a car you will not be paying millions, maybe a few times the cost of the car but no way millions.

Let see 1 song is $0.99 on itunes, and 5X damages, so $4.95 seems about fair.

Re:Ill gotten gains (0, Troll)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143666)

If you steal a car you will not be paying millions, maybe a few times the cost of the car but no way millions.

If I steal a car I will probably not be paying a fine, I'll be going to jail. Paying a fine: $1000. Not being raped in prison by Bubba: priceless.

Let see 1 song is $0.99 on itunes, and 5X damages, so $4.95 seems about fair.

That's assuming that the author is distributing his songs on iTunes and you're intervening to set what you think a fair price is for him. Might as well do away with copyright altogether, then, since my idea of a fair price for a lot of modern music is "I'll give you ten dollars to stop playing that crap."

Re:Ill gotten gains (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143676)

That's generally not the case. People who steal cars generally sell the parts or they do their drug run and return it. In either case there'd be money under that philosophy.

But considering the fact that larceny is criminal and copyright infringement is civil, I don't think that's an appropriate comparison.

Re:Ill gotten gains (4, Insightful)

Jmanamj (1077749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143692)

You are the fool that allows an idiotic fine like this to happen. Pirating music is not like stealing cars. I'll repeat: pirating music is not like stealing cars. When I download a torrent, NO ONE LOSES ANYTHING. The publishing company doesnt end up with one less copy of the album on their hard drives, the artist doesnt lose the ability to play the song. I would never have paid for that album, and no one who downloads through me would pay for it either. No one loses anything.

first (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143216)

first

I'll give it a shot. (2, Interesting)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143238)

Maximum of $50/song with a maximum total cap of $50,000. And there should be a sliding scale based on the actual amount of data transferred. So someone who accidentally shares their music library for a couple days doesn't get the same penalty as someone who seeds torrents on their company's 100mbit tube for a year.

Re:I'll give it a shot. (4, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143454)

not based on a per-song basis. charge what the songs cost on a retail (or equiv) basis. there shold NOT BE A MULTIPLIER EFFECT going on.

that's the problem people keep missing.

remove this multiplier crap. that does not work and there is no 'pay a higher pentalty' for having an album's worth of songs vs just 1.

if the act is wrong, punish the act.

they don't lock you up for shoplifting based on how many POUNDS of material you stole. or what its square yardage is. why are people so willing to accept the per-song penalty multiplier?

songs cost what they cost (lets save that for another debate). if I 'stole' 10 songs and they go for a dollar each, that's $100. and yes, for a regular person, that's a lot of money and will make them think twice about doing this again (or rather, getting caught). but it will NOT ruin them for life with lawyer bills and riaa bills.

no multiplier for songs. get that solved right off.

the actual penalty is a fixed amount. I don't care what that is, but at least its the same amount and one that can at least be rationally discussed.

You are right, and wrong (3, Interesting)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143660)

they don't do it by pounds

there sure as shit do it by value of goods
my state for example
value of goods- law charged
0-200 dollars of value- it's misdemeanor shoplifting
200-500 fourth degree
500-75 thousand, third degree
shoplift 75 thousand or more, get second degree

Re:I'll give it a shot. (2, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143696)

Not quite, there is an increase in penalty when it becomes grand theft. But in general it's based upon the value of the goods, and generally speaking they aren't letting the person who was robbed determine the value. It's typically a standard appraisal if a known value isn't already possessed.

Re:I'll give it a shot. (4, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143488)

Maximum of $50/song with a maximum total cap of $50,000.

What if I make $100 per song selling your songs, and you lose $500 in sales because I undersold you? Still $50/song then?

So someone who accidentally shares their music library for a couple days...

Should not be in court at all, since there is no intent to commit a crime or violate copyright.

... someone who seeds torrents on their company's 100mbit tube for a year.

Is showing an explicit intent to both violate copyright by copying AND distributing, and since it is torrent, is probably profiting in some other way (getting files in exchange that he would otherwise have to pay for).

Re:I'll give it a shot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143522)

And there should be a sliding scale based on the actual amount of data transferred.

This amount won't be known unless the infringer keeps the stats and it gets into evidence. All the plaintiff knows is that they're offering to share, connectable, and maybe transferred a test block to them. If subpoenaing computers get too common, people will just stop having their p2p software stop keeping the stats in the first place.

As for the $50/$50000, the problem is that you pulled those arbitrary numbers out of your ass, but then, I think that might be the best anyone can do, so it's hard to criticize. There just isn't going to be any right answer, so no one can say you're wrong, either. Unfalsifiable. Oh well, no one said it would be science.

Re:I'll give it a shot. (3, Interesting)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143620)

50k?

It does not matter what anyone comes up with. Truly. The fact is, even without the current Great Depression we are in, that the average amount of savings and assets that people have is FAR less than what any judgement will award, even one that may be considered fair like 50k. Additionally, garnishments (which means more resources used by the RIAA to setup) are determined by judges, not the RIAA. So that 1.5 million dollar judgment can sit there for next 2,500 years being paid off at $50 per month because that is what the judge feels you can reasonably pay.

For the vast majority of people though this means bankruptcy. To my knowledge, very few types of debt and judgments are not exempt from bankruptcy. With the MAFIAA's death grip on congress that most certainly can change though, but will still ultimately be unproductive.

Bankruptcy is not necessarily the end of the world either. It will hurt your credit for sure, but you cannot be forced to pay them off with a credit card, and you can choose what debt to pay on an ongoing basis the last time I checked. So even during and after bankruptcy you can continue paying your credit card bill or your car payment without penalty.

People can cash their paychecks directly for cash, prepay credit card balances, set up automatic payments to utilities the day after their ACH deposit is made, prepay utilities, etc. There are dozens of different ways to escape judgments.

Ironically, the rich are even better at it, and less likely to be hit with a copyright infringement judgment. Why torrent, and file share, and all that nonsense when you can spend hundred or thousands of dollars per month at $1 per track buying music through easy to use, virus free, interfaces? Stupid child gets their rich parents hit with a judgment? Good luck. Deep pockets are more often that not very well protected pockets. The RIAA would probably get a settlement for 5k-10k, but 1.5 million from somebody truly rich? Doubtful.

What I find so funny about this, is that the average RIAA target is probably being nudged towards bankruptcy anyways with all the bullshit going on right now.

The discussion on /. usually steers towards what is fair and right, but I don't see pragmatism. Unless the fine itself is less than $1,000 it might as well be $1 billion.

F you goyim trash! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143270)

Don't steal from us goyim ganovim opfal!

None. (1, Insightful)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143292)

Abolish copyright. Problem solved.

Re:None. (2, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143342)

You are aware that this destroys the value of human labor on a massive scale, right?

Re:None. (2, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143484)

That was a troll? You have got to be kidding! You realize that destroying copyright destroys the value of copyright-protected commercial products and the monetary incentive to create them, don't you?

Re:None. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143614)

Really? I suspect that Trent Reznor would disagree with you since he gives away his music for free. http://www.nin.com/

Re:None. (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143654)

Name 100 more who also do it and can support a viable business, Trent Reznor is an isolated case. I'm happy for him, but it's hard to believe that it is a universally applicable and scalable business model.

Re:None. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143636)

Which is why no art existed before copyright?

Just limiting it to a very short term and high punishments would be a far better idea.

Re:None. (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143486)

The fact that human labor is valued by the ability to continue to reap money without doing much work is rather disgusting.

You're not earning any money from posting here - I suggest that you stop.

Linux isn't a 'destruction of value of human labor'
Neither are so many open source, and creative-commons released works.

In fact, when you put your heart and soul into your work because it satisfies you - instead of wanting money - you will often produce better work.

Re:None. (0, Troll)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143548)

When you sell something you created for $1, you are not expecting that single sale to be your income for the period of time it took you to produce the product. "To continue to reap money without doing much work is rather disgusting" unless you expect make the income prospectively, that is after you put the product of your labor on the market, rather than before. If it took you 1000 hours to write a book and you offer it for sale, you expect to make 1000 x $N, where $N is the hourly rate you hope to earn. Do you find that disgusting?

Re:None. (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143646)

Why not try to get some hourly rates then ? People are still selling Elvis (and other 'classic') music for money - its going to be a huge N, being distributed over a number of different people. Is the amount of effort worth this very large price? Because the entertainment industry seems to be producing a hell of a lot of rich people.

Therefore, for your final answer - yes I do. It gets even worse when obtaining this "1000 x $N" (where N is a very large number) involves suing people who like listening to your work, and who may or may not have purchased other albums, or had plans to do so in the future.

Re:None. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143526)

And your point?
I'd gladly live in a world without value, one where people were free to make things up, regardless of where it came from.

Of course, it won't work with the number of humans and lack of emphasis on decent resource allocation. (well, necessities, not the newest pair of shoes)
Screw it all, lock up all the smart people with all knowledge in underground cities, nuke the planet and start the fuck over.
The human race is too far gone, it can't be recovered from without serious losses. And those losses will end up being another huge war in a few decades to the end of the century.
No one country, continent or union of either will be able to fix this stupid mess we are in, period. Too much "quick profit" and not enough "lets actually fix shit".

Re:None. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143530)

You are aware that this destroys the value of human labor on a massive scale, right?

So you think the value of art is money?

I know a few artists, and although they all dream of getting rich (who doesn't), although they all hope to earn enough money to get a decent life, they don't think the value of their labor is only a by-product of copyright.

RIAA Pays Defendant For Hosting Their Content (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143300)

That would be the fair verdict. I'm thinking $500 per file hosted per month.

1000 dollars (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143306)

flat fine for non profit use sharing. Its enough to make people think twice and not destroy their lives.

Now, if you are selling advertising, or songs making a profit in any way, it should be based on the specific event. Fox using a song in a movie should be fined more then a person who sold a song for a dollar.

Only for distribution, downloading can not be make illegal. You can not expect consumers to be responsible for the crimes of the merchant.

Re:1000 dollars (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143518)

Only for distribution, downloading can not be make illegal. You can not expect consumers to be responsible for the crimes of the merchant.

Exactly what crimes has the merchant committed if someone rips a CD they bought from him and makes the content available for download?

The ripper has copied and distributed the content illegally. The downloader has copied it illegally. But the merchant? What has he done?

Well... (2, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143312)

This is the fairest method I can think of:

1. Find out how many people obtained the song from that source
2. Find out that given a set of X people, what percentage would have purchased the song - this is the difficult part, but I'm sure you could aggregate data from online purchasing sites or something. Or even better - grab a bunch of people from the street - give them a pre-decided price, ask them whether the song is worth X dollars.
3. This person pays for the copies of the people would have purchased it otherwise. If its one of those 99 cent songs on itunes, then he probably won't be paying much.

Howabout a dollar per song? (2, Interesting)

wholestrawpenny (1809456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143346)

That is pretty much how much they cost when buying from Amazon or iTunes. Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

The fairest penalty is no penalty (5, Interesting)

Kethinov (636034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143350)

The fairest penalty is no penalty. We need to end the war on sharing by legalizing noncommercial copyright infringement. I know this is not a popular view. But this stalemate can't last forever. One side has to win. Either piracy or anti-piracy will win.

Given a choice between the two, I choose piracy. Because if anti-piracy wins, the resultant changes to internet policy and enforcement would be something straight out of dystopian science fiction. All data transmitted across the internet would have to be monitored and checked for copyright violations. It would require aggressive internet filtering and surveillance on a scale that makes the Great Firewall of China look like child's play. 1984 was not supposed to be a guidebook...

Moreover, there's plenty of evidence that it's possible to run a content business on the internet without charging per digital download. Plenty of people do it. In short: yes, you can compete with free.

Legalize file sharing by legalizing noncommercial copyright infringement. It's the only way.

Re:The fairest penalty is no penalty (3, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143460)

What is a download? Is a $0.99 song a download that would be OK to "pirate?" What about a video game that cost a company $50 million to create? If it was legal, why would anyone buy it instead of "pirating" it? Who would pay for its production? What incentive would there be to create any but the most trivial digital content?

Has it occurred to you that you are proposing the destruction of the value of human labor on a massive scale?

Re:The fairest penalty is no penalty (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143550)

Nope. You pay for service. So get the game for free, but unless you register and pay you don't get the live feeds that make it fun, or take you to the next level, or whatever.

I buy my music simply because I find Amazon easier to deal with than many of the pirate sites. I get what I want with a minimum of effort; that's worth a buck.

Make it more convenient to pay than to pirate, and it will work out. Right now it's more convenient to pirate than to pay.

Re:The fairest penalty is no penalty (1, Insightful)

Kethinov (636034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143554)

Setting aside the fact that a $50 million dollar budget to create a video game might imply inefficiencies in the production costs, there are plenty of alternative models at the disposal of the developers.

They could serve the download for the game for free, but require the downloader to watch a few video ads. Such an ad setup would fetch a lot more of a pretty penny than some stupid adsense site (which they could deploy as well) and you can be sure they'd be bringing in more volume in new customers that they surely currently lose charging absurd prices such as $50+ a pop for a new game (depending on publisher).

They could also offer, in addition to that, a subscription service that allows ad-free downloading and discounted game-related merchandise. Maybe being a subscriber entitles the subscriber to other benefits, such as a physical media rental, or a special privileges on the official game server. Think software a service.

And that's just what I can come up with in five minutes. Who knows how many other models there are that are competitive with piracy? The point is there are lots of options. To say that legalizing noncommercial copyright infringement would destroy the value of human labor is fallaciously sensationalist.

Re:The fairest penalty is no penalty (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143634)

Let's say that on average each ad click-through generated $0.05 (a generous estimate). To get back the $50 million they would need to have 50,000,000 / 0.05 = 1,000,000,000 click-throughs. If they wanted to make that money in the first year, that's over 2,700,000 click-throughs per day, or over 30 per second every single day for a year. Of course, there are no guarantees.

Your subscription service amounts to selling downloads, so you got nowhere with that one.

You have not proposed anything particularly realistic, not to mention attractive.

Re:The fairest penalty is no penalty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143686)

Hyperbole much?

>>If it was legal, why would anyone buy it instead of "pirating" it?

Um, obviously no one of your moral standing, but other people will. Enough of us, actually, to make up for the invalids. Just as we do with public radio, public television, public art, public works, public land, public resources, charity, education, religion, and individual artists/professionals including musicians, performers, authors, political analysts, comedians, TV/Movie producer, programmers, engineers, doctors, journalists, and lawyers. And we will probably even let you join on either end at anytime without any hassle, but honestly you will probably have to asphyxiate on your own self interest first.

Re:The fairest penalty is no penalty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143504)

Of course the person that doesn't have anything to lose from piracy and nothing to gain from anti-piracy is going to pick piracy.

Re:The fairest penalty is no penalty (1)

halowolf (692775) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143516)

Or perhaps we could all win, by not buying the junk they are currently pumping out and not pirating it either. That way bodies like the RIAA might actually have to listen to what the consumer wants and face reality instead of the one they keep on trying to create for us. I know, I know... wishful thinking wont get us anywhere.

Re:The fairest penalty is no penalty (1)

McBeer (714119) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143528)

The fairest penalty is no penalty. We need to end the war on sharing by legalizing noncommercial copyright infringement.

Why would anybody go through the trouble and expense to create quality movies, tv, music, books, software etc if it's legal to just take the end product without paying? Sure, some people will pay out of principle, but if it's perfectly legal most people will just take it. Without funding, I'm sure there will still be hobby projects, but nothing on the scale we currently enjoy.

To effectively prevent piracy the penalty has to be such that PenaltyAmount * ProbabilityOfGettingCaught > SavingsByPirating. Right now the chance of getting caught is quite low, so the fine has to be quite high. Perhaps the problem is actually that the *IAA isn't suing enough people. If ProbabilityOfGettingCaught was close to 1, the PenaltyAmount could be quite close to the actual value of the item pirated

Re:The fairest penalty is no penalty (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143674)

<quote><p>Why would anybody go through the trouble and expense to create quality movies, tv, music, books, software etc if it's legal to just take the end product without paying? </p></quote>

I don't know, but yet there are quite a few works released under Creative Commons, or one of the Open Source Licenses. Some people are motivated by more than just dollars. Other people wouldn't mind putting a "Tip Jar" and people who like their work can tip them.

Re:The fairest penalty is no penalty (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143600)

The fairest penalty is no penalty. We need to end the war on sharing by legalizing noncommercial copyright infringement.

Then exactly what incentive does the distributor (or author) have to produce anything, if he knows that as soon as the first CD/DVD/whatever shows up in the stores someone can simply copy the material digitally and put it up for free download to everyone else?

Yes, I know, there are some artists who fly the flag and give out their material for free already. There are a lot more who don't, and many of them who need to feed a family.

What you are arguing for is, in essence, an end to having to pay for ANY copyrighted works. Nobody can charge for something because there will always be someone who copies it and gives it out for free "on their behalf". Eventually the few altruistic people who buy a CD from a band they like because they know the band needs the money to keep playing will give up (or die, eventually) and the culture of "free copies" will take over.

Re:The fairest penalty is no penalty (1)

Heddahenrik (902008) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143622)

It's definitely not the only way. You're totally wrong there and billions are working against you.

I do agree that it's the best way though.

Depends on motivation (2, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143354)

For adults doing it for personal use who can't be bothered to pay for what they buy:

I would go with a civil penalty of 1x the retail cost of the songs, along with a no-jail-time misdemeanor criminal penalty at the discretion of the prosecutor for 2nd time offenders and those who are clearly doing it as a means of civil disobedience. Criminal charges would only work if prosecutors were protected from pressure from the record companies. Otherwise the criminal justice system becomes an arm of the recording industry, which is far worse than the current practice of suing people into bankruptcy. Civil disobedience only works if there is a price to be paid and you are willing to pay it.

For adults who knowingly leave their computers open for anyone to copy an substantial number of songs and who aren't extremely naive, I'd probably start with a no- or weekends-only-jail-time misdemeanor offense plus stick them with a civil-penalty bill for any downloads by people who were outside the reach of the courts. I wouldn't throw someone in jail unless the actual civil damages - at about $1 song/download not counting the exclusions below - were well into the 5 figures. I would not bill them for downloads by others who downloaded them only for the purpose of sharing them or downloads by police or plaintiffs, as those clearly do not represent lost sales by any stretch of the imagination.

For those who make their "warez" available on a commercial scale, I'd up the ante to a jail-time misdemeanor and possible forfeiture of their computers on the first offense.

In any case, the record companies shouldn't get any more than if the person bought all the songs on the open market, plus reasonable attorney's fees. In other words, they wouldn't make any profit.

For teenagers and very young adults I'd probably go with a more creative approach: Write an essay on the history of copyright law and its positive and negative effects on the creative arts, and garnish a reasonable portion of their wages for a year or until the civil judgment is paid off whichever comes first. Only in rare cases - usually ones where parents actively encouraged the copying knowing it was illegal - would I make the parents pay the bill.

Re:Depends on motivation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143384)

> Write an essay on the history of copyright law and its positive and negative effects on the creative arts,

That would be pretty annoying given any reasonable analysis would conclude copyright law is catastrophically negative. Will you also require the essay to reach the absurd conclusion that copyright monopoly law bullshit is a good thing?

Re:Depends on motivation (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143648)

My only requirement would be that it is well-researched, it doesn't conveniently ignore available evidence, and that the conclusions are reached in a logical and well-reasoned manner. Oh, and there shouldn't be any grammatical or other non-content problems.

However, I would require that the person read up on the topic and I would give them some assigned readings, some of which would show reasons to favor strong copyright laws. If they didn't at least address the readings in the essay I might make them do it over. "Address" doesn't mean agree with - it may mean researching the issue and finding strong counter-arguments.

We interrupt this /. post from a message from my inner cynic: "Get real - a significant number of teenagers wouldn't know how to write a grammatically correct, well-reasoned essay if their life depended on it."

My thoughts on the US legal system (4, Interesting)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143366)

I should point out that I am an American citizen and have served on juries before. My comments are specific to the US legal system and may not be applicable to that of Canada, the UK, and other countries.

Having served on a couple of US juries I can assure you all that juries can contain people who are technologically illiterate. The last time I served on a jury, which was 5 years ago, I was shocked when 3 or 4 guys on the jury basically got into a contest to see who could claim to be the stupidest when it came to technology. I have never seen anything like this in my life, but these guys took turns trying to top each other and convince everyone on the jury that they were the stupidest person there was when it came to technology. There were exactly 2 people out of 13 (1 was an alternate) who had an IT background and I was one of those.

So on top of having people with weak to non-existent technology skills you may run into these people who see the world in black and white and want to punish evil doers. We had one of those on my jury. They tend to always be biased against defendants and want to apply the harshest sentence possible. I've read about this woman's various trials and she has had very poor lawyers and on top of that, jurors reported that they were sure she had lied in court and was completely guilty of the charges. I think she's a nut job who thinks she can beat the charges. So considering all of that, I can't say I'm surprised she got screwed with a fine she can never pay. Her life will be ruined as even thought the RIAA knows they'll never get the full amount, they can garnish her wages forever.

Re:My thoughts on the US legal system (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143432)

It's funny you say that about the not-so-tech juries. Here we look upon citizens juries with precisely the same in mind. How can one person that is not trained for it, every be in place that he can convict someone. It's no problem that they aren't tech-savvy. It IS however a problem that they don't know shit about crime and/or law. That should be you concern.

Depends... (1)

cobrausn (1915176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143374)

Illegal download, just charge a flat 50 per song, which is enough to deter most illegal downloaders.

Illegal upload, just charge a flat 1000 per song, which is enough to deter most illegal uploaders.

Re:Depends... (1)

FunPika (1551249) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143476)

And then the RIAA will argue that P2P constitutes both and make it 1050 for any song related transfers over that protocol.

Re:Depends... (2, Insightful)

ratboy666 (104074) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143564)

What, pray tell, is an "illegal download"?

Since everything is copyrighted (with the exception of public domain material) -- everything you download is copyrighted. The Web does not carry "copyright" information (except for some DRM material).

Some jurisdictions do have the concept (or can have) of an "illegal download". Here, child porn would fall into that class (as an example). So would some hate literature. Now, I don't really know what to do if I accidentally downloaded material like that. Erase it? Signs it had been erased would make me guilty... I imagine I would erase and overwrite it. Possibly, turn it in to local law-enforcement (depends on my relationship with law-enforcement at the time, I suppose).

Still, images, text, audio and video are all copyrighted on creation. Pray tell how you can distinguish a music track that may be downloaded (due to viral advertising) and one that may not?

Because of this, the onus must be on the party doing the copying (or distributing).

PLEASE, PLEASE get rid of the "illegal download" meme!

Projected quarterly income of `big media inc (tm)` (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143386)

Projected quarterly income of `big media inc (tm)` subtracted from Actual quarterly income divided equally among every pending legal suit.

The answer is?

42

Don't be stupid. (1)

topham (32406) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143414)

Don't distribute copyrighted material on the internet without permission?

When you do, don't purger yourself and destroy the evidence after you receive a subpoena.

When you lose, but there is another offer on the table, seriously consider taking it; particularly if you've puregerred yourself and destroyed evidence.

Don't claim your innocence and disregard your responsibility after you've puregerred yourself and destroyed evidence.

 

As much as you would get for stealing? (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143418)

Based on the MPAA marketing that piracy is theft, then the punishment should obviously be what it is for stealing a copy of that item.

Re:As much as you would get for stealing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143482)

Actually, not a bad recommendation. Do an analysis of how many copies were made as a result of this woman's file sharing. If it exceeds grand theft level, she gets jail time for grand theft, otherwise petty theft.

Re:As much as you would get for stealing? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143606)

Actually, not a bad recommendation. Do an analysis of how many copies were made as a result of this woman's file sharing. If it exceeds grand theft level, she gets jail time for grand theft, otherwise petty theft.

TERRIBLE recommendation. There's absolutely no way to "analyze" how many copies were made, especially if the client used encryption. And, whose "analysis" would you use? The RIAA's? The Internet Service Provider's? The infringer's? Please. Any such analysis would depend entirely upon automated computer records, of unknown reliability and accuracy: the fact that a log file says something was transferred does not mean it did. Talk about humanity fading in the shadow of the machine.

Not to mention that this is a civil matter. Why do people insist believing that criminal proceedings are appropriate?

Re:As much as you would get for stealing? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143644)

Actually, not a bad recommendation. Do an analysis of how many copies were made as a result of this woman's file sharing. If it exceeds grand theft level, she gets jail time for grand theft, otherwise petty theft.

Nice try though, attempting to equate copyright infringement with a criminal behavior like grand theft. Still, if you're going to shill for the media companies you need to be more subtle about it.

There needs to be two standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143424)

Downloading a song is far different than uploading one. Simply charging some one the actual cost of the music like many suggest doesn't allow for a penalty so the point is "why not" if you only have to pay if you are caught and it's too expensive to pursue people. Make it 10X the cost of a song so it stings but a far higher penalty should be posed to some one that posts songs. The problem is that one post can result in thousands of downloads so the level of damage is much higher. Anything I would propose would simply be called too high but the point is people upload as an ego trip especially the earliest ones and they don't feel like they'll get caught. The real focus should be on the ones uploading in the first place. There is a massive difference from the old days when some one would make a single mix tape. There wasn't a noticeable loss to the makers of the content. Lately there's been a massive drop off in sales with downloading the obvious cause. FYI anyone squealing at the thought of paying $10 each for their 40,000 song collection needs to admit they have a problem. I've bought everything and my collect numbers in the hundreds and it takes me several days of play to get through it all. No one has a desperate need for 6 to 12 months worth of original music. I find it hard to come up with several days worth that's even worth listening to let alone months.

Just *show* the proof, please (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143434)

From the article:

The fines would become even more complicated when you consider how much money a record label is actually losing for the illegally-shared songs.

Another fine example that shows how pre-conceived people's notions on file-sharing are. Where's proof that file-sharing is actually making a record label lose money? It might just as well be that it makes a song more popular, to the point where people go out & buy the media. I'm not saying that's the case, but the opposite isn't true beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt either. P2P activity vs. sales plots may show correlation, not cause. More likely it depends... on what song, what band, when it was shared, where it was shared, etc. And varying with time - at some put it may hurt sales, other times it may help sales.

Personally I think that laws should result from obvious findings (something that everyone can see & agree on). Preferably combined with cold, hard math. In the absence of such obvious / irrefutable facts, we should just cut the red tape & scrap those laws. Or limit their scope to the point that we can (accurately!) measure their effect.

2 rules, infringment for profit or personal (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143446)

I think we can all agree that copyright infringement to make a profit needs high damages. People who are copying a video and then selling those copies on the streets deserve a high penalty to offset all the in-gotten-gains and compensate the copyright owners for the lose of sales (since people actually bought the item, possibly thinking it was legit). I think those damages can actually stay were they are to be honest with you. However, for personal use, and non-profit, it should probably be capped at 10-20x the actual value of the item infringed upon.

Here is my suggestion (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143472)

My suggestion would to be to

1) Estimate how much the average person spends per year on the type of entertainment infringed on as a percentage of income.

5.4% of income is spent on entertainment, and 3.4% of entertainment budget is on music. So 5.4*3.4 = .2% of total income is spent on music.

http://www.visualeconomics.com/how-the-average-us-consumer-spends-their-paycheck/ [visualeconomics.com]
http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/consumer/video-games-score-5-of-u-s-household-entertainment-budget/ [nielsen.com]

Then take that number times the individuals income. So say 25,000 for the average individual.
25,000*.002= 50$

So that is the base amount for that individual. Now that can be multiplied times a penalty factor for willful infringement, etc.

How about this: (1)

Dr. Hellno (1159307) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143474)

The RIAA stops suing people, but continues keeping an eye on filesharers. People who are found not to distribute files get loyalty incentives like early listens to new albums, a couple free tracks every month, front-of-the-line privileges for concert tickets, all that kind of stuff. People who the RIAA does see distributing aren't punished, but they're locked out of all these cool little freebies.
It's a clearly imperfect idea, but while we're brainstorming here, why not consider an option that's all carrot and no stick? File sharing isn't going anywhere, astronomical damage awards or not. Maybe they can win back a few customers with the kind of rewards program every major retail operation has used for years?

Pretty simple. (2, Insightful)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143480)

No possibility to sue, put a small levy on blank media. Problem solved, works good pretty much everywhere in the world it's done.

Re:Pretty simple. (2, Insightful)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143546)

Except that doesn't stop anything (See: Canada)

Re:Pretty simple. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143586)

Uh, it's not supposed to, eh.

Re:Pretty simple. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143664)

And obviously since they're paying for the material via the levy the intent IS NOT to stop the downloading. The intent is to give the companies that produce it money in some other way. So it doesn't matter if it "doesn't stop anything", it's not intended to stop anything, it's intended to be a levy/tax/whatever, not a deterrent.

Re:Pretty simple. (1)

sxeraverx (962068) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143632)

Except there is already a tax on recordable media (CDs and the like). The problem is that they want to end copyright infringement, and profit from it too. The tax on blank CDs exists because of the implication that they will go to copying music. But for some reason, that doesn't explicitly or implicitly give you license to actually do the copying. I'm all for the tax, so long as it gives me blanket permission to do whatever I want with the CDs.

Re:Pretty simple. (1)

varmittang (849469) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143688)

Yeah, but I buy my music legally, and I want to make a CD to play in my car. Now I'm paying twice for the same music? Now I burn a Linux disk or other files, I'm paying for music that I'm not putting on it. Most people don't even put it on CDs anymore, it goes right into digital device (iPod).

Re:Pretty simple. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143694)

No possibility to sue, put a small levy on blank media. Problem solved, works good pretty much everywhere in the world it's done.

Rubbish. You'll just end up like Germany, where there's a levy on blank media and you STILL get sued.

$0.99 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143508)

And $0.10 of that should go to Apple for losing the sale. If the record label wants to recover the loss for the people that _might_ have downloaded it from the accused they should go after those parties individually. Unless our society thinks whipping boys are now in fashion. Nah, the punishment should fit the crime.

Based on a proportion of earnings (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143514)

Compensate the owners for what they actually lose. So if a song brings in (say) $10k a year the total revenues, after actual costs, that the owners get should be a fair percentage of what they made - 50% would be a good place to start. However, that 50% should be the damages from ALL the filesharers together who were found guilty of sharing that one song during the year in question. Now I realise that would give the copyright owners no incentive to go after any more than one person, but that one person may then be able to argue that by not pursuing all the infringers, the owners were not defending their claims.

Over time, I could see the percentage claimed back from sharers rising, as copyright owners eschew traditional sales channels and rely more on infringemnt-prone web based channels, until all songs are distributed "virally" and (somehow) everyone pays the few pennies each that actually goes to the writers & performers - and the record companies become irrelevant and fade away.

Re:Based on a proportion of earnings (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143588)

Yes but what about the gains?

What about the people who get a copy of the song X illegally from a friend, and decide that they like the group and decide to support them? It will not have been the first time that this happened - and for 'smaller' bands, its how they would actually function - through the social aspect. I know a band which actually threw a huge amount of songs as free downloads on their site - are they losing money because of it? In the long run, perhaps not - because aside from giving people a good 'dose' to get to like the band, they are also looking like the 'nice guys' and worthy to be supported finantially.

The fees are about right (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143534)

But, if the material that has been copied is a cover version, then the damages should go to the original author, not the person that recorded a cheap, easy knockoff.

Why does the music industry get any money? (1)

makubesu (1910402) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143560)

If I am caught shoplifting, do I have to pay for the goods I took? No I return those goods, and then pay a fine to the government. For a larger scale crime, I return the goods, and am sent to jail. Why is it that when it is digital suddenly the music industry gets to turn a huge profit? If someone tries to skip the bill at my restaurant, can I suddenly sue them for millions of dollars? Go ahead and fine the folks who download songs. Maybe cut them off from the internet after a few strikes. Maybe issue them a fine like we do with people who run stop signs. But they owe nothing to the RIAA.

Quid pro Quo (1)

bgspence (155914) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143616)

The song penalty should be about the same as the record companies are hit with when they rip off their artists.

Too little, too late (1, Insightful)

dtml-try MyNick (453562) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143626)

Since there is no accurate way (not even remotely) to determine how many lost sales there were from sharing a song I'd say it's utter nonsense to base a fine on that.

A fixed fine per song seems the most fair to me. Considering I can purchase songs online for a dollar or less I'd say the fine per song should be somewhere in the lines of 2 to 5 dollar tops.

Both the industry as the legal institutions have to get out of their caves. The world has changed, movies, albums, songs don't have the status anymore they had 20 years ago.

Even the most casual music listener has thousands upon thousands of songs in their libraries. A mp3 hardly has any value at all anymore.

It sucks for the big boys in the industry, multi billion dollar profits down the drain for two reasons.
1. Technology ripped their monopoly to pieces, the multi billion profit days are over, forever. Suck it...
2. They missed the boat when they had the chance. They should have looked at Napster as a new market, not the root of all evil.

They laughed at Steve Jobs when he was trying to get iTunes store from the ground. Look who's laughing now. He has the music industry by it's balls. They could have done that themselves but didn't.

It's their own fucking mistake, common citizens shouldn't have to bleed for that.

The fine for DUI is less and that is with all the (5, Interesting)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143650)

The fine for DUI is less and that is with all the fess added together.

even hitting a road worker in a work zone is a MAX fine of like $10,000 so how can file sharing HAVE A FINE THIS HIGH?

Hell you can shop lift cd's and pay like a max fine of $500

Parking fines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143662)

I can't understand why they don't just issue people something like a parking fine. After all, the actual harm is fairly minimal, it's just a vaguely "bad thing" (ignoring the debate about whether or not copyright should exist in the first place) which they want to discourage.

So for minor infringements, make it something proportionate to the level of harm - e.g. the fine is, say, 3x the typical purchase cost of whatever you unlawfully possessed, 10x for for sharing, as that's more harmful in some sense. If you're doing it for profit, then break out all the existing (imho ridiculous) laws.

Fair price (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34143670)

A summation, for all different instances of infringement: The number of total data bits uploaded in this instance of infringement DIVIDED by number of bits in the actual file being uploaded TIMES number of tenths of a second of audio or video in the file DIVIDED BY total number of tenths of a second of audio or video in the file TIMES the proportion of perceptible copyright content during that time duration TIMES the greater of $1 or the minimum price the publisher ever sold or licensed at least that many tenths of a second of that work for on the market PLUS A penalty capped at 10% of the greater of the infringer's Gross income and the parent's gross income, if a parent is responsible calculated as ( fixed dollar penalty for infringing activities TIMES the number of overt intentional acts of infringement )

Where each overt intentional act must be proven, intent must be proven, and there must be at least one intentional act of infringement to warrant a penalty.

An act of infringement is an act of infringement taken with full knowledge of the human TIMES the number of infringements they will have knowledge of in advance. For example, uploading a file, placing a file on someone else's anonymous FTP server is one act of infringement. The uploader has committed one infringement.

Sending an e-mail to 3 people is 3 acts of infringement. Even if two of those 3 e-mail addresses is invalid, and the message never gets delivered to anyone, or generates bounces and gets delivered to a bunch of admins, with the infringing content.

Downloading a copyright file using Bittorrent is 0 acts of intentional infringement, if the downloader is unaware of how the protocol works, or it cannot be proven they uploaded copyright bits.

Seeding a file on Bittorrent is an overt act, and a number of infringements to be calculated based on their upload ratio TIMES the percentage of the file they downloaded. For example, assuming the infringer downloaded the entire file, an upload ratio of 0 is 0 infringements, a ratio of 0.5 is 0.5 infringements, 2 is 2 infringements, etc.

Offering a file on a Peer to Peer network is an overt act.

Music already seems to be free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34143698)

There is not much popular music that you cannot easily get by tuning in to your local radio station, any number of internet radio stations, last.fm, youtube, by watching MTV, by visiting a friend, by having your girlfriend make you a sampler, in fact, if you want to listen to some specific song, just go to tinysong.com, type in the title and hit play, and if it's not there, it will be on any number of video sites. No need to pay, watch ads, or anything else.

We can talk about how it's bad to get a copy of a movie and release it into the wild before it's officially published, but already published music? I want to listen to Madonna's "Music", I go to tinysong.com and enter "madonna music" and hit play. I go google, type "madonna music" and click on any of the many youtube videos. Anyone can do that. What does it matter, really, negatively, if someone helps you to get it via BitTorrent or whatever in addition to all the other ways you could get it for free and instantaneously?

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