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file sharing and piracy in Boston

August 14, 2009

phillsy_8trkThis is not what I normally blog about, but my friend Steve Bartenstein just had this article published in Atlantic.com on the crazy amount of money–$675,000–that one selected-at-semirandom individual, Joel Tenenbaum, is now obliged to pay to the music industry for illegally downloading and sharing copyrighted songs.

But is this hefty fine a deterrent to others? Steve says no:

Each time the industry has threatened to take a pound of financial flesh from a capriciously selected student, it’s taken a high-stakes gamble that the benefit it reaps from the lawsuit’s deterrent effect on others will outweigh any bad publicity it yields. But if the prospect of bankruptcy and bad credit is beyond the comprehension of those inclined to do illegal downloading, then such lawsuits are hardly a deterrent.

And in fact, studies show that lawsuits have done little to stem the tide of illegal music filesharing in the United States. According to one study conducted by Big Champagne, a company that researches filesharing trends for record labels, illegal music sharing actually increased by 100% between September 2003, when the lawsuits began, and April 2005.

Plus, there’s the whole question of  negative publicity that makes the recording labels look like the bad guy:

The industry has been crucified in the press on a number of occasions for pursuing lawsuits against single mothers, a 13-year-old girl, and even a dead person. So hyperconscious of public perception is Matthew Oppenheim, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the Tenenbaum case, that he could be overheard in the courtroom emphasizing to another reporter that the industry has deliberately chosen not to pursue lawsuits against soldiers in Iraq and victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Read the whole article here.

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