Blame the law, not the courts for insane copyright judgment

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 18, 2009, 11:25 PM | comments: 0

The Jammie Thomas trial ended, and the jury found her guilty of willful copyright infringement. For that, yeah, she probably deserves it. But here's the insanity: She's supposed to pay $1.92 million for illegally downloading 24 songs.

Clearly the people on the jury have no common sense. The minimum amount under the law is $750 per song, which is already insane for something that costs 99 cents. But what the hell were they thinking here?

There are two things that I see happening next. The first is that the RIAA will be further demonized to an extent we haven't seen yet, and frankly, they deserve it. They've bullied countless people out of court with absurd settlements, and now they got what they wanted with this silly jury. The second thing is that some Congressman somewhere has to wake up and realize how broken copyright law is for this to even be possible. It defies logic.

Understand that I'm not justifying stealing content in any way at all. I've worked in media my whole life, and I know that shit doesn't get created for free. I'm 100% behind people who create intellectual property and their right to be compensated for it. What I'm not behind is laws that don't make any sense.

The whole story is made worse by the recording industry's unwillingness to adapt (and I suspect wouldn't have at all if it weren't for Steve Jobs). While piracy isn't right any way you might slice it, it likely wouldn't have been a problem if they would have evolved sooner. Now the big story is that music sales in 2008 were up 10% over the previous year, driven largely by legal digital sales, which jumped something like 28%. Suing single moms for millions of dollars is not likely to score any sympathy points for starving record companies that screw the artists as much as they do the consumers.

It's possible that they may settle for a lesser amount, but the whole things shows just how much copyright reform is necessary.


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