Friday, October 12, 2007

RIAA's Lazy Man Payoff

Today in America it seems that the lazier the slob, the greater the payoff in so many ways. The RIAA case against music downloader/sharer Jammie Thomas is one such example. Thomas was sued for $222,000 for sharing 24 songs in "violation" of copyright laws protecting music as intellectual property. The basic premise is that this is theft.

Let me use an analogy to show how absurd this is. Suppose I have a new car, with a car alarm, and I park it in my garage at night, with a house alarm. Somebody breaks in to my house, disarms both the house alarm and the car alarm, and makes off with my car silently while I sleep. Would this be a crime of theft? Of course. Would you feel sorry for me? Of course, because I took every reasonable precaution to make sure my car wouldn't be stolen. Now suppose I left the new car in a dark alley in the worst neighborhood in town with the windows rolled down and the keys in the ignition, and somebody took it. Would it be theft? Still, yes. Would you feel sorry for me? Of course not, because my lack of responsibility for my own property invited the theft. You would tell me that it was the most stupid thing I've ever done. Now let's say that in the first case I demand a replacement car from the thief, plus a bit extra for the problems it caused, as a matter of justice. This is reasonable. Then in the second case I demanded several million dollars. This is absurd.

But the second case is the way the music, movie and software industries work in the eyes of the law. Brilliant marketing has placed music and software in every place, easily accessible with common electronic devices, with easy buying access for almost anybody - third parties completely unknown to the "owner" of the product. This has led to unbelievable profits. But this has also led to copying of music at an unprecedented rate. Decades ago, it would have been cost prohibitive to copy music because it would have taken top of the line equipment. Today, such copying is as cheap as anything there is, and it is much easier to do than get in a car and turn the key.

Along with the ownership of private property comes the responsibilty to protect that property. The recording, movie and software industries have done nothing to protect their own property, yet demand the most unjust punishment. I heard a quote from Thomas' attorney on the radio saying that 24 songs at about 99c per song should demand damages at about $24. He's not far from the truth. The bible demands restitution for theft according to what is stolen. Anywhere from 20% above cost to five times cost for an ox. Even if you view her actions as theft (and there is doubt even of this within intellectual property theory debates), Thomas' damages should be about $30.

Mass electronic piracy is the heavy price being paid by the recording insustry for decades of the irresponsible marketing of their own "private property." They refuse to take responsibility, yet demand that others be responsible for their own property at exponentially higher expense. Quit whining, RIAA, and take it like a man.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your assertion that the lady should ony pay $30.00 back - or the price of 24 cd's max ($460.00?) - if all the songs are from a variety of cd's (this is likely not the case).

    I think this is a terrible mis-justice and I cannot for the life of me figure out how the justice system could reward that company so much - for so little (24 songs). Something about that justice seems fishy.