When I worked in-house, one of the docketing clerks for our department could not understand why she couldn’t download music for free anymore. The short answer from the intellectual property attorneys she worked for was “because it’s illegal.” Her response: “But I like getting my music for free.” She’s not the only one.
Yesterday, appellate arguments were made at the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, Massachusetts in the case of Mr. Joel Tenenbaum, who was found guilty of illegally downloading and sharing music. His attorneys (a.k.a. a Harvard law student and law professor) are arguing that his fine of $67,500 is excessive. Is it excessive? I believe it is. But they’re argument that Mr. Tenenbaum should only pay $21, the price it would have cost him if he had downloaded the music through iTunes, is ridiculous. My vote would be for the minimum set by law, $750 per infringement. $22,500 ($750 x 30 – the # of songs he downloaded and shared) might seem like a lot to those who view copyright infringement as no big deal. However, I believe that the fine needs to be substantial enough to make people understand that copyright infringement is illegal and is a big deal.
I don’t buy their argument that Congress did not intend for the law to apply to individual downloaders like Mr. Tenenbaum and I hope the judges don’t either. I also hope the First Circuit Court of Appeals does not accept Mr. Tenenbaum’s attorney’s comparison of his client’s copyright infringement to “willful jaywalking”. I find it disheartening that a seemingly good legal mind can belittle copyright infringement as no big deal. I understand that the 20 somethings who came out in support of Mr. Tenenbaum feel that music-sharing is no big deal and shouldn’t be illegal (getting something for free is better than paying for it), but I don’t understand how an attorney can liken willful copyright infringement to willful jaywalking.
I look forward to the First Circuit Court of Appeals decision.