26 May 2009

RIAA Fines: Not so Fine

Yesterday I told the story of RMS and his magic bread, and what it taught us about sharing; here's the negative corollary, courtesy of Charles Nesson:

Imagine a law which, in the name of deterrence, provides for a $750 fine [the lower threshold for statutory damages] for each mile-per-hour that a driver exceeds the speed limit, with the fine escalating to $150,000 per mile over the limit if the driver knew she was speeding.

Imagine that the fines are not publicized, and most drivers do not know they exist. Imagine that enforcement of the fines is put into the hands of a private, self-interested police force that has no political accountability, that can pursue any defendant it chooses at its own whim, that can accept or reject payoffs on the order of $3,000 to $7,000 in exchange for not prosecuting the tickets, and that pockets for itself all payoffs and fines. Imagine that almost every single one of these fines goes uncontested, regardless of whether they have merit, because the individuals being fined have limited financial resources and little idea of whether they can prevail in a federal courtroom.

That, of course, is the precisely the situation for copyright infringement: how can this be just?

Go Charlie, go.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter @glynmoody and identi.ca.


Crosbie Fitch said...

I really wish people would find more appropriate analogies.

Other people's lives are not put at risk through unwitting or wilful ignorance of a monopoly (as they are through speeding).

How about fines for tourists found to be wearing a certain colour, an imperial colour specifically reserved for the king and his family?

That would be a better analogy.

Glyn Moody said...

You're absolutely right, of course. But that comparison is a little too abstract for most people. The speeding limit may be wrong, but it's vivid.

Anonymous said...

>> GPL is so far behind everyone else,
>> BSD (OSx)
>> apache 2.0 (Google)
>> Linux (GPLv2)

This guy is acting like the GPLv1 is RMS's little contribution and that he had nothing to do with the following v2 and v3.

When we say that the GPL is by far the most popular license, it usually means 1, 2, 3 as well as LPGL and I believe Affero as well.
GPL is far ahead of everyone else (You hear that Randall Schwartz? Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, I know its you).

One of the drinking topics we always end up on our fridays night b-ball games (code till 9pm, basketball in the company court yard till 10h30 and then beer) is "Would Linux have been as successful had Linus not chosen the GPL?"
And its hard to find someone who thinks it would have.

I have to admit that as much as I wanted free software to succeed, I had neither the conviction nor could I foresee the overcoming of the huge obstacles of the past 2 decades.
I might sound like an old fart but it takes a hell of a lot less guts to shack up with the Linuxes now than it did 5, 10 years ago.
Most of the drivers holdouts are almost all aboard now (except a few like Broadcom), the desktops are on par/ahead of the proprietary ones.
You can fall off the turnip truck, install Linux and be totally oblivious to what it was like even three years ago when I refused to put my parents on Linux because the desktops werent ready. Which is fine.
But anyone who knows the history of free software and the GPL, knows how much we have to thank RMS for.

But more than anything, we should thank RMS for being steadfast in his vision.
While he hasnt worked on any code on the 4 projects (all GPLed or variants) I work on and some of the college kids working with us barely know who he is, what he did has made what we are doing now possible.
No. He hasnt coded much lately but every time I work on free software, its partly based on his work.

Glyn Moody said...

@anon: I think this is reply to the RMS piece below, isn't it? Do you want to repost there?