Friday, June 19, 2009

Is This Justice?

The MP3 sharing software problem is one that philosophically baffles me. On the one hand, artists have rights over their copyrighted material. I may no more copy a book written by a famous author on this blog than I could steal money from a bank. On the other hand, Biblically speaking, if I steal a gallon of milk, I can't be fined thousands of times what the milk is worth. There must be justice that fits the crime.

YahooNews reported a story of a woman that has been fined $222,000.00.

An attorney for the recording industry, Tim Reynolds, said the "greater weight of the evidence" showed that Thomas-Rasset was responsible for the illegal file-sharing that took place on her computer. He urged jurors to hold her accountable to deter others from a practice he said has significantly harmed the people who bring music to everyone.

Now usually, when companies are sued for large amounts that people don't deserve (like the hot coffee incident with McDonalds), the lawsuit is intended to make certain large wealthy companies change their ways. Since they have large amounts of money, it is argued that large settlements are needed as punishment to get them to change their ways.

However, how does a woman that is "a 32-year-old mother of four from the central Minnesota city of Brainerd" have the amount of money that they are demanding from her? As she said,
"There's no way they're ever going to get that."
Obviously, the ridiculous amount is unjust and unlawful. But it gets even better. When you check the basis for the charges, the plaintiffs admit something that is stunning.

The recording companies accused Thomas-Rasset of offering 1,700 songs on Kazaa as of February 2005, before the company became a legal music subscription service following a settlement with entertainment companies. For simplicity's sake the music industry tried to prove only 24 infringements.

So this is the heart of the matter. It sounds terrible that she offered 1700 songs. They sought to prove only 24 infringements. They then admit,

Although the plaintiffs weren't able to prove that anyone but MediaSentry downloaded songs off her computer because Kazaa kept no such records, Reynolds told the jury it's only logical that many users had downloaded songs offered through her computer because that's what Kazaa was there for.

So they admit they have not a shred of evidence for their charge. Yet they fined her more than she could possible repay and far more then what the songs are worth. This isn't justice. It is extortion. Like the drug trafficking problem, the government goes after the user instead of the dealer, which in this case, is Kazaa.

Sibley urged jurors not to ruin Thomas-Rasset's life with a debt she could never pay. Under federal law, the jury could have awarded up to $150,000 per song.

Justice requires proper proportions for crimes committed. When murderers are getting away with murder due to technicalities, this case seems to prove that our society's thinking is a little backwards. Please, notice the phrase in the above quote, "up to". This is to allow freedom for common sense. Apparently, this jury has none.

So why write about this? I think this is a case that illustrates how far we have come from a sound Biblical perspective on the world. It is one thing to have frivolous lawsuits against giant companies. It is quite another when big companies go after the "little guy".

All of this seems quite surprising in a culture that seems to have gone off the deep end in their hatred for big corporations. It just proves one thing. The love affair between politicians and big money will never end. I think I have to agree with Riddlebarger on this one.

1 comment:

Howard Fisher said...

Another point should be noted. This woman didn't actually make any copies of anything. If Kazaa is not guilty of anything in this so-called crime, why is she? If Kazaa can say they didn't actually copy anything, then so can she.

The reality is that the only person making the copies is the one downloading the songs through the software provided by Kazaa.

By the exact same logic, I suppose public libraries could be guilty if someone were to use a special tool that was able to copy books. and being that there are now books on tape and MP3s, I suppose Libraries should be fined millions of dollars too.