Money For Nothing

// Posted by on 01/27/2013 (10:33 PM)

“You break into any system that you are not authorized to enter, you should be willing and able to face the consequences. The Age of the Merry Pranksters and a Bus going Further are long gone. I loved it then but this time is not then. Too many scammers and info-terrorists are running rampant so Hacker Beware.”

That is an individual’s comment on a New York Times article concerning the Aaron Swartz situation. In his eyes, Swartz illegally downloaded millions of¬†copy-written¬†files and was completely responsible for his actions. This is certainly a valid point; after all, the documents WERE held on a secure subscription-only server, and he TECHNICALLY broke the law. However, are today’s piracy and copyright laws outdated and incapable of properly policing online illegal activity? After all, Swartz’s potential punishment was “35 years and $1 million in fines,” a punishment rivaling that of armed robbers and individuals who commit dangerous, face-to-face crimes.

Although JSTOR opted to not press charges against Swartz, other organizations have taken ineffective and costly approaches to “punish” those who have illegally downloaded products online. The RIAA is notorious for suing people of all ages (as in, from children and the elderly) for thousands of dollars per illegally downloaded song. In this article research shows that out of $64 million spent on lawsuit campaigns, they only brought in about $1.4 million in settlement money. That’s only 2% of the money they spent that they’re getting back.

I’ve done a ton of research on copyright laws and the media in the past, and from my research I’ve concluded that today’s laws are inadequate in the face of the vast amount of technological changes that have occurred since they were written. For example, is it illegal for an individual to buy a game or a movie legally and then pirate the same copy just so that he or she can get around the pesky always-stay-online” DRM included in the paid version? That’s what happened to Shawn Hogan, who was sued after illegally downloading the movie Meet The Fockers via BitTorrent. His case was unique because he provided evidence that he owned a legitimate copy of the DVD, and the case was settled.

I am not an opponent to strict copyright laws. After all, people deserve to be paid for their work. However, I think that the laws need to be revamped, thrown away, or replaced in order to accomodate a world in which law-abiding people are being sued for thousands of dollars for “illegal” activities that, under scrutiny, aren’t worth the pain and suffering that they cause. If someone wants to both buy a copy of Diablo 3 and a pirated version just to play the pirated copy offline, who are they actually hurting? If Aaron Swartz takes JSTOR articles and posts them for others to read, should he be imprisoned for 35 years? Where does it END?

By: Andrew Jones

Categories: Blog
Tags: , , , ,


Jorien said...

Why would it be legal when you already own a copy, when you still download a version illegally?
Those cases are a bit controversial, however, courts do have to decide where they draw the line, because I think that there is a difference between downloading only 1 game illegally and distributing 35 different sources.
I find this a hard topic though, because will you let nobody share/distribute files or do you open everything up and do not sue anyone.. is there something in between?
It seems like we have reached the point where it is hard to define what is within the law and what goes against it.
Also, should there be a difference when talking about downloading music files and academic sources?

// 01/30/2013 at 7:53 pm