Insanity in Minnesota

CNN tells: an American woman illegally downloaded 24 songs; got fined 1.9 million dollars.

Great flaming sense of proportion, recording industry!

Given that the American price for a legal download seems to be 99 cents, 24 songs work to a bit less in dollars. Now, at 80 000 dollars of fine per pop, that’s an around 80 000-fold increase in price.

As 24 songs is something like two CDs, one wonders if stealing two CDs would have carried an even stiffer fine? Must be so, as actual theft removes an object/copy from the holder; copying just creates one into the possession of the taker. (I could go on at length about this, and my amateur view of the ups and downs of downloading — maybe I will, later. Anyway, a single instance of such downloading, though distasteful, does less harm than and is distinct from stealing. Not that the “You wouldn’t steal car”/“You wouldn’t invade Poland” industry cares to make that distinction; “You wouldn’t photograph this postcard” doesn’t have the same punch.)

Then again, one gets the feeling that the meaning here is just to crucify the poor woman and utterly ruin her life and grind her face in the dirt so that no-one will ever dare to have the foolish presumption to question the absolute divine authority of the dread Dark Lord Riaa of the Shadowlands — wait, uh, so that the others will behave — since who on earth would waste the court’s time with a crime of 24 bucks? The lawyers’ fees alone will come to thousand times that. (My nuts shrivel at the thought of punishing someone with undue harshness just to make an example out of her — it might be expedient, but justice it ain’t.)

On the other hand, this is a development with great potential — I’d estimate that of the 5 million people in Finland at the very absolute least one-fifth has illegally downloaded at the very least that much, which means that if the same thing was done here, the industry would get pumped up to the tune of 2 million million dollars!

The slight difficulties caused by prosecuting one-fifth or more of the population and extracting a few millions from each are left as an exercise to the reader.

(And, incidentally, I am not riding the “everyone does it, so it’s good” fallacy — I’m just pointing out that this travesty is a) a solution that cannot be applied to general cases, and thus is wrong wrong wrong, and b) insanely out of proportion to any harm the woman did.)

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