A Minnesota woman accused of sharing songs online owes record companies $222,000 for willful copyright violations
Bret: That's one small step in the right direction. The battle to protect intellectual property rights and enforce international copyright laws must and will be fought and won in the courts. Only when such laws are proven to have real teeth that cause real pain to perpetrators will society understand, once and for all, the moral and legal reality that unauthorized and uncompensated downloading and distribution is theft and a punishable crime.
Russ, I have no problem at all if artists want to give away their recordings, but what about artists that co-write songs or cut songs by other writers. There has to be some kind of compensation and an according penalty for those who would choose to exploit the creative efforts of songwriters. I don't have all the answers and it may be a grand new landscape for a few, but I know too many people who have and are suffering. I can't just write it off that they haven't embraced the change. That's a cop out, wouldn't you agree?
It seems to me that if an artist, who is the sole author of a song, decides to give it away, he/she has every right to do so except where such distribution is contractually limited or prohibited by any existing agreement with the artist's producer and/or label, i.e. other parties with a financial interest in the song. If the sole author and any other interested parties agree to willfully give away their property and sacrifice their royalties and other compensation - what can I say? - they deserve what they don't get.
However, if an artist decides to give away a song that is written or co-written by others who do not agree to give it away, and these writers/co-writers do not receive just compensation for each distribution (download), that's a copyright violation and probably a contract violation, as well. I believe they're both actionable. The laws must apply equally to those who illegally download and those who illegally distribute music without the authorization and compensation of all parties having a financial interest in the music.
Where lawsuits against illegal downloaders and distributors are concerned, it is the responsibility of the plaintiff (e.g. the RIAA) to fairly compensate all injured parties with the proceeds of any awards or settlements. If organizations like the RIAA do not represent the interests of songwriters in the cases they prosecute, then songwriter/publishing organizations must either partner with other plaintiffs or file separate actions on behalf of songwriters to ensure fair compensation.
I agree, many people are suffering and their suffering must not be "written off." Laws are meant to be obeyed. It's not a matter of deciding whether or not to "embrace" the law. You either abide by the law or you break it. If you break it and you're caught, you must pay the penalty.
People routinely exceed the speed limits when they drive. In most cases, they know they are in clear violation of the law. Most of the time they get away with it, but when they do get caught they must pay a fine for willfully breaking the law. If they get caught enough times, maybe they'll finally learn to abide by the law, but these fines are usually not painful enough to either disincentivize speeding or produce a cultural change to always obey the speed laws. However, if the speed laws had real teeth that caused real pain - e.g. exceed the speed limit, spend 30 days in jail, pay $1,000 and lose your license - the vast majority of people would obey the laws from the outset. They would not risk the punitive penalty.
Judgments against copyright violators must be similarly punitive in order to stop lawbreakers and would-be lawbreakers in their tracks. The laws are in place and they have real teeth. It's now a matter of enforcement. It's a matter of the government, the plaintiffs and the courts having the will and the wherewithal to say intellectual property theft is a crime, perpetrators are criminals, and they must pay a severe price for breaking these laws.