Feeds

Recording industry puts stake in ground with Jammie Thomas case

Copyrights and wrongs

Security for virtualized datacentres

On 1 October, 2007, Jammie Thomas - a single mother living in Brainerd, Minnesota - was sued in civil court for copyright infringement by the Recording Industry Association of America. Three days later, the jury returned the verdict; Ms Thomas was liable for willfully infringing the copyrights on 24 songs. The fine: $222,000.

Once the case got whittled down, the jury had to consider whether Ms Thomas was using a peer-to-peer network to download those 24 songs. The jury found that she had used Kazaa and had both downloaded the songs and in the process "made available" the songs for downloading by others.

Thus, for each song, there were several acts of infringement: downloading, storing, copying, posting ("making available"), and potentially aiding and abetting of the copying by others. Many of these terms overlap each other - for example, you can't download a song without copying it - even streaming a song copies it.

It could have been worse, much worse. Had she been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, Ms Thomas could have been fined $3.6m plus been forced to pay Capitol records' attorney's fees and costs. And that is just the civil fine. She could also be forced to pay a criminal fine of $6m and make restitution to the record companies, as well as serve 120 years in jail. In fact, had she previously been convicted of infringement - a matter of timing of the prosecution - she could have been sentenced to 240 years in jail. And that is just for 24 songs.

Just highlighting the possible sentencing demonstrates that there are several problems with the Thomas case. First and foremost, it really does not recognize - as current copyright law fails to recognize - the way normal, and presumedly law abiding, people use the internet. Indeed, the odds are very good that you committed a copyright infringement this morning, and, if not, you will by the end of the day.

As University of Utah law professor John Tehranian points out (pdf), mundane activities like downloading, copying, automatically replay to, or forwarding emails could be read to constitute copyright infringement. That's right - almost all emails are copyrighted.

Tehranian points out that just copying and replying to 20 emails could lead to $3m dollars in statutory damages. So too are such things as forwarding family photographs or pictures of the company holiday party that you didn't take, singing "I Wish You a Merry Christmas" at the party and videotaping the singing of the song, or posting the latest "Dilbert" comic on your cubicle wall. All create potential civil and criminal infringement liability.

Indeed, Tehranian notes that his hypothetical infringer, doing nothing more than the average person does, and not including any peer-to-peer file sharing, could have potential annual statutory civil liability of more than $4.5bn. And, of course, that is just in the United States. The internet, being a transnational medium, raises the specter of infringement liability in many countries at the same time.

So in a way, Thomas got off light with a judgment of only $220,000.

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.