This must be some kind of joke, surely? Ars Technica, a web site that keeps track of events in the technology world, reports that a woman in the states has been convicted in a civil case for pirating 24 songs. For this, the jury awarded the music company a $1.92 million payout. That’s in the region of $80,000 per song! What the hell?! (External Link to Ars Technica Article Here)
The person in question is guilty of pirating 24 songs. The article doesn’t specify where she downloaded the songs from, but the Music Company was able to provide evidence showing her username, IP address and MAC address. A MAC address is the unique number assigned to your network card when it is manufactured by the OEM. Each MAC is unique to that card, although it is possible to spoof these addresses. From what I gathered from the article, the user in question does not dispute that the songs were downloaded onto her machine, but disputes that she downloaded them.
The jury awarded the Music Company $80,000 a song. Before I thought that was insanely ridiculous, it turns out that the minimum awazrd is $750 and the maximum is $150,000. Technically the jury were within their rights to place a middle line figure for the award. We won’t discuss the insanity of it, or the fact that the songs, no matter how amazing, are worth that considering they can be downloaded for $0.99 from just about any music website. I won’t go into the insanity of costs that this whole thing must have borne to actually get to the courts and the fact that, should the Music Company force the guilty party to pay, that they would not be able to.
I do not believe that the Music Company can show real loss, and to force a person to pay $ 1.92 million would probably end their financial security for the remainder of their lives; lest they already be millionaires of course.
There are a lot of concerns with this case. As owner of the equipment, she is held liable. Despite their being doubt and a lack of concrete eveidence of her wilful infringement, the jury still found her liable, showing that, as the article states, serious doubt has to be given. It is, after all, not a criminal proceeding? It concerns me, that the possibility therefore remains that should an unprotected computer be hijacked, or zombied, to act as a download agent before re-directing the download to another site for download by the actual cyber-criminal, that the owner of the computer would be held liable, as this precedents.