Thursday, August 02, 2007

Labels told: file sharing is a "petty" crime

The German leg of the legal campaign against illicit file-sharing has suffered a series of setbacks, with public prosecutors telling the labels they can't pursue fielsharers as if they were criminals over a few, petty filesharing offences. In short, the prosecutors say they won't do the label's dirty work:

heise online has meanwhile seen an anonymized version of the lengthy reply of the chief public prosecutor's office in Berlin, dated October 18, 2006. In its reply the chief public prosecutor's office accuses the copyright holders of trying "under cover of pretending to want to initiate criminal proceedings to obtain for free and by exploiting the limited resources of the prosecuting authorities and at the expense of the budget of the federal state of Berlin the personal data required for the successful pursuit of civil claims." The chief public prosecutor's office in Berlin also denied that launching an investigation was in the public interest. All the offenses that had been brought to its attention were minor, the office stated. In a fashion comparable to that of the Local Court in Offenburg the chief public prosecutor's office in Berlin also looked into the damage done by the P2P network uploads. Contrary to the statements found in the complaint the damage done had to be regarded as "insignificant," the office declared. Hence the criterion of "minimal culpability," of necessity, had to result in a nolle prosequi being issued without any prior investigation.

Moreover, the "deciphering of IP addresses" and search warrants were intrusions on basic rights, to which the principle of proportionality had to be applied, the chief public prosecutor's office stated. This principle required that no investigation be launched in response to the complaints filed, the office declared. Here too the chief public prosecutor's office points to the copyright holders' likely motivation in filing the complaints: "Criminal-law-based investigations that entail intrusions on basic rights must not be launched for extraneous reasons -- such as nothing more than a desire to obtain evidence for a civil suit."

And what's disproportionate in Germany is surely disproportionate elsewhere. So, less like someone stealing a CD from a shop, more like someone reading your paper over your shoulder.