The disgusting heavy-handedness of copyright law

Copyright law is a topic that a lot of people feel sensitively about. It’s apparent that there are some strong feelings about it.

Before continuing, I think that it does benefit to first point this out: If you should have paid for music, movies, or video games, but did not, and downloaded them anyway, then you broke copyright law. “But Raizen,” you might say, “I didn’t steal them. I just made a copy. The media company still has the original.” You can call it what you want. The action that you described is illegal under US copyright law.

The point of this article isn’t to try to hammer people who download music illegally, however. I brought that up because I thought it would be productive to address that point that’s made by those who break copyright law, to help them to better understand the relevance of this article to them.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not friends with the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA). Not by a long shot.

I have a problem with the RIAA because of their heavy-handed abuse of the law. How heavy-handed? A US court ordered a Minnesota woman to pay $220,000 after a suit by the RIAA.

That’s a pretty extraordinary claim. With a claim that high, one would think that she was the webmaster behind a huge web-ring that provided free music downloads to visitors to her web page in exchange for clogging their browsers with cookies and ads.

Nope. She downloaded 24 songs illegally. Not 240,000, only 24. Simple division time: $220000 / 24 = $9166.67.

“We are pleased with the appellate court’s decision and look forward to putting this case behind us,” said the RIAA. Of course, it would have been easy for the RIAA to put the case behind them because the RIAA is rich. They don’t have an immediate need for $220,000. As for the woman, a single mother with two children, things might be more difficult.

As if the RIAA didn’t have enough money, they also went after a former Boston University student in a $675,000 case. His case was aggravated by the fact that he redistributed the music, but the fee is still outrageous considering the fact that it was only 31 songs ($675000 / 31 = $21774.19).

I’m thinking that maybe that all that money isn’t going into fostering creativity from music artists, but is instead going right into the pockets of music execs who would then use it to buy more expensive automobiles for their children.

Talk about a punishment that doesn’t come anywhere close to fitting the crime. If I were to walk into a record store and walk out with a CD that I didn’t pay for, I doubt that the store would sue me for half a million dollars.

The product that the music industry offers isn’t worth as much as they are claiming in damages for it. That they think it is is an idea that they should get out of their heads.

Ideally, the law should be fair, not showing favoritism on the basis of wealth and class. In America, this is not the case. This is especially true when it comes to copyright law, much of which was brought about by the strength of the wealthy, who then use the legal system as an arm for themselves.

Concerning the $675,000 ruling, the RIAA stated that “We are pleased with the District Court’s decision”. That’s like a pro-wrestler patting himself on the back after sending a 12-year-old to the emergency room. The guy downloaded less than three dozen songs and uploaded them to the internet again, and wound up in more trouble than if he had uploaded videos of himself drop-kicking puppies onto YouTube.

I don’t know about you, but I find it very distasteful when the legal system is heavy-handed to the point of insanity. It’s even worse when the entertainment industry then wields the legal system as a tool for it’s own agenda.

What’s next, a $70,000 fine for jaywalking? I don’t know, but it’s hard to imagine that things are going to get better while people are tolerating the way things are going. Perhaps as people are becoming fatter and increasingly distracted, they’re becoming more passive toward the people that abuse them.

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