In yet another blow to the mindless, thieving scofflaws who think copyrights are antiquated or unenforceable, a jury has awarded the RIAA $1.92 million after finding that Jammie Thomas-Rasset willfully and illegally redistributed music via P2P. This was the second time a jury came down hard against Thomas; the first verdict was set aside after the judge declared a mistrial over a technicality (the judge believed he’d given faulty instructions to the jury).
The RIAA remains open to settling with Thomas, though she continues to feel defiant. About the jury’s punishment of $80,000 per song (the case revolved around 24 songs, but she had illegally swapped 1700), she said,”There’s no way they’re ever going to get that. I’m a mom, limited means, so I’m not going to worry about it now.”
During the retrial, the defense raised — for the first time since this ordeal started nearly five years ago — the possibility that one of her children or an ex-boyfriend had made the songs available via P2P. The jury apparently didn’t buy that, answering that Thomas had engaged in willful infringement. The first jury hadn’t found that.
Thomas has been made a focal point of the copyright war by the activists who think technology changes everything and that theft is now acceptable. She’d been given ample opportunity by RIAA to work out an agreement and likely still will. She’s fought two cases and lost resoundingly in each one. She’s also seen jury awards to RIAA increase from $220,000 to $1.92 million.
Game over. Or it should be. Unfortunately, the activists still don’t get it.
Technology doesn’t change anything about who owns what under the law. All technology does is make it easier to steal from the owner(s) of the copyright. A recording that’s been digitized retains all the rights of the original. You do not own the bytes of a digitized rip of a CD you purchase and you’re not free to redistribute those bytes.
Unless there’s some landmark change via the courts (unlikely) or legislation (also unlikely) that overturns centuries of common law principles, copyright infringement will continue to be a punishable crime. And that’s what it should be — we punish thieves who deprive others of the value of their work and property. Doesn’t matter if you shoplift an article of clothing from a store, break into a home and steal a computer, or deprive an artist of his livelihood by giving away his recordings. Theft is theft.
Until the law is changed, it’s not the right of anyone to choose for others how their works are redistributed. If you disagree with copyright law and you think the existing business model chosen by artists and their record labels or by recording studios is obsolete, it’s not your right to put their works into the public domain via P2P. It should be the right of the artist and the labels how they do their business. You’re free to do commerce with them under their terms or reject their terms outright, but you cannot force them to give their rights and property away under your own terms. Especially when your terms don’t compensate others for anything. The free ride is over and you’re still going to have to pay.