Archive for September, 2007

Corporations are people too?!

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I got an email a while back about the RIAA, MPAA, and other greedy corporations:

Is it fair when the hundreds of hard working rock and roll stars (hah) lose their retirement because some decides to “share” the music with hundreds of thousands of their closest friends?

What does this have to do with punitive damages?

This is a problem. Corporations are made of people too and juries routinely come down hard on corporations. That’s celebrated here because the jury is hanging some big, faceless machine. But there the corporation is made up of people and all of those fines at Exxon came out of the retirement fund of thousands of people.

And this is the problem with your typical corporate sympathyzer. Either a corporation is a legal entity under the law or it is not. Corporations get to lobby, give to political campaigns, and shield their employees from liability because of that standing. You can’t treat them like they are a single entity when it is convenient (i.e. profitable), and scream they are “made up of people, too” when it suits your purpose. And your definition of “coming down hard” is a bit ill informed, I feel. I’ve never heard of a damage judgment that wasn’t well within the corporation’s ability to pay, and still turn a profit for the year.

Personally, I think the world would be a much better place if when a corporation broke the law somebody has to go to fucking jail, but in the meantime, you can’t have it both ways. The only way we have to punish a corporation when they break the law is through financial penalty, and the punishment must scale by the corporation’s ability to pay. Otherwise, they would be completely lawless.

RIAA lawsuits – where do they come up with those numbers?

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

If you steal a single apple from your neighbour, it’s not reasonable to argue that the risk of being convicted after having stolen a single apple from a neighbour is 1:1000000, so despite the apple being worth $0.20, you should be fined $200000. It’s an unconstitutional excess to put someone in debt for life for the crime of stealing a single apple.

A different problem is that when a huge part of the population is guilty of breaking a certain law, but the risk of being investigated are very low, and punishment very high, this has the effect of giving whomever decides who to investigate the power to essentially punish people at will.

Politicians should make law. Police should investigate. Courts should convict (or not). That’s the way it’s supposed to work. With filesharing and these RIAA lawsuits it works more similar to this:

Politicians make a law, that a huge part of the population breaks regularily.Police essentially never investigates anyone for breaking it. Private companies are free to, according to their own criteria, decide who to investigate. Courts tend to convict (not surprising, since most people are guilty)

This puts a HUGE amount of power in the hands of those private companies. I’d guess in a average group of college-students, that company is, currently, free to bankrupt for life anyone they chose to. Well, not EVERYONE but close enough. (certainly 90%)