this one's not quite dead yet
Posted: 2003-07-18 02:59
3 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

On Wednesday, Representatives John Conyers (D, MI) and Howard Berman (D, CA) introduced new legislation, H.R. 2752, the "Author, Consumer, and Computer Owner Protection and Security (ACCOPS) Act of 2003".

This bill has nothing to do with protecting or securing computer owners or consumers. The bill is little more than a thinly veiled attempt by the RIAA and MPAA to make file-sharing a felony offense. After first required the Attorney General to include statistics on copyright infringement when issuing crime statistics, the bill makes one file equivalent to ten files. Sharing of a single unauthorized copyrighted work "shall be considered to be the distribution...of at least 10 copies of that work with a retail value of more than $2,500." $2,500 is the minimum amount for a crime to be considered a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

Later, the bill would criminalize the practice of using a video camera to capture a movie being shown in a movie theater. Somewhere in the middle, the bill would make stealthily distributing bundled spyware an offense punishable by a fine or max. 6 month imprisonment. Right after that, it would be made a crime to provide false or fraudulent information in the registration of a domain name. This 'offense' would be punishable by a fine or max. 5 year imprisonment.

First, let's have a look at the part of the bill that would equate one file with ten files, and make a $15 CD or DVD worth $2,500 when shared on the Internet. If this reminds you of the RIAA CD burner math of last December (156 CD burners were considered to be 421 burners, because 'some of them were fast'), you're not alone. One file is one file, and ten files is ten files. To assume that one file is ten files is absolutely ridiculous. Just because the RIAA/MPAA is unable to obtain an accurate count of how many times a shared file has been downloaded is no reason to automatically (and be legally forced to) consider a single instance as 10 instances.

Imagine if this idea were applied to other areas of the law, like murder laws, for example. A person who is guilty of a single murder would be presumed guilty of ten murders, and legally have no recourse to prove that actual damages (the real # of murders committed) was not 10. No one would think that any law doing this would be fair, or constitutional, so is this sort of idea even being considered for copyright infringement? I am embarking on a quest to seek answers to this question, and will keep you all updated on what I may find.

But the fuzzy math is only one part of the disturbing bill. If this bill were to become law, sharing a single file, which was downloaded once, would be counted as a loss of $2,500 for the copyright holder. This could a single song of an album (which costs at most $100, for a large compilation; prices average around $15-$20 at retail), a single movie (which can be rented for $3-$7, seen in a theater for $5-$15, or purchased on VHS or DVD for $10-$25 in most cases), yet it would be counted as being worth $2,500 at retail. No song, album, or movie sells at retail for anywhere near $2,500, with the possible exception of extremely rare films or autographed copies (which is meaningless when considered in an online context). Where did this number come from? Another question I will be seeking an answer to.

Worth noting is the comparison (or rather, the contrast) between the laws and penalties for shoplifting, and those for copyright infringement. Shoplifting, in which someone is deprived of a physical product that they can no longer use (in this case, sell), is a misdemeanor, and penalties are in good proportion to the amount of property stolen. Theft of a $15 CD would not be punished by a > $2,500 fine. Contrast this with copyright infringement (assuming this proposed bill were law). Any person found sharing even one single file could be charged with a felony, since 1/10th of that $15 CD (.1 * 15 = 1.5, or an expected $1.50) is apparently worth (at retail) $2,500 (nearly 20 times the retail cost of the entire CD). And since this one file is somehow actually 10 files, the case proceeds over a sum of $25,000 (nearly 200 times the retail cost of the CD).

While stiff penalties are likely a deterrent to committing a crime (in many cases), insane penalties are just that: insane. To treat copyright infringement (in which nothing is physically lost or stolen, and the original owner can still sell/distribute the work) nearly 200 times as harshly as physical theft (where a person is actually deprived of property, and can no longer use/sell it) is just preposterous.

The other provisions of this bill have their own disturbing implications, but much of it is beyond the scope of this site, or my desire to look into further. I urge everyone to contact the members of the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property, which is the subcommittee this bill will first have to clear, as well as their own representative, and urge them to put a stop to this insanity before it's given any more consideration.


» 1 is 10
Posted: 2003-07-21 09:33:36
Author: jonas

I think you&#39;ve misunderstood the &quot;1 is 10&quot; math.. if you can even call it math.<br /><br />1 shared file is considered to be 10 distributed copies.. not 10 shared files. &nbsp;Theres an important distinction.<br /><br />You can&#39;t really make a comparrison to murder; maybe 1 murdered person equals 10 grieving people or 10 people you owe civil damages to.. but a better analogy is a pirate radio station; every song you play, 10 people listen to... if damages were at all based on audience (which they aren&#39;t), that&#39;s what it&#39;d be like. &nbsp;Of course, the 1 = 10 math is way off; 1 probably = 100 at least.. but the damages for 10 distributed works; &#036;2500, is outrageous and obviously an artificial attempt to make it a felony.

» br
Posted: 2003-07-21 09:35:15
Author: jonas

oh yeah; your system automatically inserts the &quot;br&quot; tags, and then automatically changes &quot;&lt;&quot; and &quot;&gt;&quot; to &quot;&amp;lt;&quot; and &quot;&amp;rt;&quot;.. &nbsp;you should probably fix that so that the tags are put in after the substitution.

» Re: 1 is 10
Posted: 2003-07-22 21:07:29
Author: Phil

Ok, you&#39;ve (mostly) got me on the 1:10 thing, but it&#39;s still absurd that sharing a file, which may only be downloaded by someone once (or possibly not even at all) is considered to have shared it with 10 people.<br /><br />Now, I know that for the most part, the people who would be brought up under this law would have been sharing files to a good number of people, and that it&#39;s not possible to come up with an exact number of times a file has been downloaded.<br />If the RIAA/MPAA want to argue that sharing a single file is equivelent to sharing 10 (or 100, or whatever number) files, then they should have to try and demonstrate this somehow, when they already have a case against someone. &nbsp;If they can show that it&#39;s the case, I&#39;ll be a little less annoyed by it; what I really don&#39;t like is that we have a (for now) unproven assumption about downloading that could be become codified in US law. &nbsp;The fact that damages are quite possibly just being pulled out of their asses to try and make file sharing a felony is completely absurd.<br /><br />As for the &#39;br&#39; bug, apparently textareas sometimes transmit text with &#92;n for newlines, and sometimes with &lt;br&gt;. &nbsp;I made the de-HTML code turn a &lt;br&gt; into a &#92;n, which (after the de-HTMLization) is turned into the XHTML-compliant &lt;br/&gt;.

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