DOJ to swappers: Law’s not on your side.

Looks like the Department of Justice is talking about opening up a can of whupass on folks trading music and other files via peer-to-peer networks like Gnutella. According to this article over at News.com the DOJ is gearing up to start laying down the law on the largest offenders.

John Malcolm, a deputy assistant attorney general, said Americans should realize that swapping illicit copies of music and movies is a criminal offense that can result in lengthy prison terms.

“A lot of people think these activities are legal, and they think they ought to be legal,” Malcolm told an audience at the Progress and Freedom Foundations annual technology and politics summit.

Malcolm said the Internet has become “the world’s largest copy machine” and that criminal prosecutions of copyright offenders are now necessary to preserve the viability of America’s content industries. “There does have to be some kind of a public message that stealing is stealing is stealing,” said Malcolm, who oversees the arm of the Justice Department that prosecutes copyright and computer crime cases.

Naturally the music and movie industries are just delighted with this news.

Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), said his industry would “welcome” prosecutions that send a message to song-swappers.

“Some prosecutions that make that clear could be very helpful…I think they would think twice if they thought there was a risk of criminal prosecution,” said Sherman, who was on the same conference panel.

Christopher Cookson, executive vice president of Warner Bros. and another panelist, said there was “a need for governments to step in and maintain order in society.”

Yeah, he’s right. Those rampaging mobs of file swappers tearing up the streets is just getting out of hand. As much as I dislike the business models that the music and movie industries are based on and as much as I agree with the various grievances folks have over the cost of popular media, the point does still remain that stealing is stealing. I can buy into the argument that having a couple of MP3s from an artist whom you don’t like enough to buy their entire album is not unlike taping a couple of songs off of the radio, but it’s still stealing. When you can go out and download a bootleg DivX of Austin Powers 3 from the net in the same week it was released and it’s not a shaky-cam recording someone made in a darkened theater, but an very nice capture made from what looks like a finished product then that’s a lot harder to rationalize. That’s pretty blatant theft there which I can’t even begin to justify.

It’s pretty widespread too. A guest at my daughter’s birthday party brought along a bootleg copy of the Spider-Man movie to share with the group.  I don’t even think it’s been released on VHS or DVD yet. I can understand why the entertainment industry is so up in arms over all of this as it seems that the general public feels that as long as they can do it in the comfort of their homes without a lot of effort then it’s not theft. I can’t say that I’m all that surprised at this move by the DOJ as it really is the proper thing to do and I’d rather that the law was enforced than have new laws mandating changes to computers and personal recorders making it impossible to make digital copies of anything without implicit approval of the entertainment industry going into effect. The whole argument of fair use under copyright will go out the window if the big-wigs get their way.

1 thought on “DOJ to swappers: Law’s not on your side.

  1. hmmm. i’m a fan of “cheap” movies as i can’t/don’t have money to go to the theatre. if it comes down to prosecuting, perhaps they should go after the people who made the original stolen copies. i mean, I don’t work at the movies and make the bootlegs, i just download them.

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