Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obama: Change is one thing, but copyright is another

The appointment of RIAA attorneys to top jobs in the Obama administration suggested that in the New America, it would be more of the same as far as copyright went.

And now, we've had that confirmed, in writing: Michelle Bennett, Department of Justice trial attorney, has defended the indefensible demands for copyright restitution made by the RIAA cartel:

The government said the damages range of $750 to $150,000 per violation of the Copyright Act was warranted.

"The remedy of statutory damages for copyright infringement has been the cornerstone of our federal copyright law since 1790, and Congress acted reasonably in crafting the current incarnation of the statutory damages provision."

She has a point - back in 1793, George Highsmith, Esquire, was fined USD75,000 for copying an etching. It was, observed the judge, as if he had just gone into an etching store "and made his egress without regard to recompensing the proprietor for his wares."

Bennett does, at least, attempt to explain why charging made-up sums of money is cool with the White House:
"Congress sought to account for both the difficulty of quantifying damages in the context of copyright infringement and the need to deter millions of users of new technology from infringing copyrighted work in an environment where many violators believe that their activities will go unnoticed," Bennett wrote.

So, let's not bother sullying the debate by considering if the amount charged is fair to the individual - since lots of people get away with "it", anyone who does get caught should be fined a sum to reflect other people's crimes, too. That seems fine.

And, really, you can't expect a fair fine, as it's so difficult to work out exactly how much financial damage has been done to the RIAA companies - so what could be more just than simply making up a number? "You have stolen some money, and since we can't be arsed to work out how much money you stole, we'll say its sixteen thousand pounds, shall we? Pay it back."

Siding with multinational corporations in pursuing unjust financial demands against low-income individuals. Isn't that the change you voted for, America?

[Thanks to Sarah W for the link]