When Single Moms Are Fined $1.5M, It's Time To Take A New Look At Copyright Protection In The Digital Age

Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons and Harvard law professor, on copyright law in the digital age. First of all, it infuriates me that the federal government is working as private cops for the RIAA. Think about how they pushed through the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and forced the

Lawrence Lessig on copyright law in the digital age.

First of all, it infuriates me that the federal government is working as private cops for the RIAA. Think about how they pushed through the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and forced the music and computer industries to use copy protection.

It also maddens me because the Founders only allowed ten year copyrights, after which the rights were turned over to the general public, to benefit from the work.

It's time to come up with a saner version of digital copyright, because this is crazy and wrong:

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota woman ordered to pay a recording industry trade group $1.5 million for illegally sharing music online doesn't plan to pay those damages as her attorneys continue to argue the amount is unconstitutional, she said Thursday.

A federal jury found Wednesday that Jammie Thomas-Rasset, of Brainerd, must pay $62,500 per song — for a total of $1.5 million — for illegally violating copyrights on 24 songs. This was the third jury to consider damages in her case, and each has found that she must pay — though different amounts.

And after each time, the single mother of four has said she can't pay.

"I can't afford to pay any amount. It's not a matter of won't, it's a matter of 'I can't,'" Thomas-Rasset said Thursday. "Any amount that I pay to them is money that I could use to feed my children. Any amount that I pay to them is money I could use to clothe my kids, and pay my mortgage so my kids have a place to sleep."

The Recording Industry Association of America has said it found Thomas-Rasset shared more than 1,700 songs on the file-sharing site Kazaa, but it sued over 24 of them. RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth said the association made several attempts to settle with Thomas-Rasset, at first for $5,000, but Thomas-Rasset refused.

Duckworth said the RIAA was thankful the jury recognized the severity of Thomas-Rasset's misconduct.

One of the main reasons I despise the RIAA is that I know how many artists have been screwed out of their copyrights and the money that goes with them -- by the very same people who claim to be looking out for their interest.

This is like a bigtime Mafia chieftain complaining that a low-level crook is taking all his money.

If the RIAA (and the movie industry) are really all about protecting the artists, here's a suggestion: adopt generally recognized standard accounting practices, so artists know exactly how much they've earned.

Because right now, they can't -- not without a subpoena.

About Susie Madrak

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