We are the goose laying the golden egg for musicians. Now, I don’t approve of stealing music, disingenuously called “file sharing”, via peer-to-peer networks. But the case of Jammie Thomas, the first person hauled into court by the RIAA, shows that the recording industry is more interested in squeezing little people rather than addressing its real problems.
She’s accused of sharing 24 songs, or two CDs worth. We don’t know how many people downloaded those songs, but if 10 people did, that’s perhaps $250 in value. If 100 people did, that’s $2,500, and so on.
Under the judge’s interpretation of copyright law, unfortunately, the RIAA wasn’t required to prove how many songs were downloaded. Maybe nobody did; maybe thousands of people did. All the RIAA needed to do is prove Thomas made them “available” through Kazaa.
So Thomas is on the hook for $222,000 for a couple dozen songs that may have been downloaded.
There’s no question that violating copyrights is wrong. It’s stealing, pure and simple. But to lose one’s home over a couple of CDs worth of music isn’t justice, it’s a desperate attempt by the RIAA to deny the new model of music distribution. Thanks to the Internet, the recording industry is a dinosaur that’s trying to stave off extinction.
But squashing people like Jammie Thomas isn’t helping.