Congress Decides To Criminalize The Average College Student

from the everybody-go-to-jail-now dept

Certainly lots of college kids commit illegal acts while away at university. For some, it’s almost part of the purpose of going away to school. However, a new bill moving rapidly through Congress will quickly criminalize many college students and threaten them with five years in jail. According to this report, The House Judiciary Committee has approved (by voice vote) a bill that would make it a criminal act, punishable with up to five years in prison, to share 1,000 or more “copyrighted works.” I don’t know if that’s the actual language of the bill, or just a misstatement by the author of the article. The way the law works these days, almost any content is automatically copyrighted, so if the wording is just “copyrighted works,” even those distributing legitimate works (such as Creative Commons backed content or just documents you wrote yourself) would risk going to jail. Chances are they mean unauthorized works, though. Of course, the article also notes that the average college student has 1,100 unauthorized downloads on his or her computer. Assuming most of those students leave a file sharing app open, then that means the average college student may soon be a criminal facing five years in jail. Seems a bit… extreme. As someone in the article notes, this ratcheting up of the punishment does very little to actually deal with the root issue, but the recording industry isn’t know for caring about root issues.

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Comments on “Congress Decides To Criminalize The Average College Student”

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Billy J. West Jr. says:

Don't do the crime...

If you can’t do the time.

Believe it or not, distributing copyrighted works without authorization of the copyright holder IS a crime. Just because “lots of college kids commit illegal acts while away at university” does not make it right. I may not agree with the way the entertainment industry is handling things, but I also don’t think that those breaking the law should go unpunished.

hanzie says:

Re: Don't do the crime...

You know, it might be more interesting to look at this from the opposite perspective. If so many people are violating the law, and if the violators of the law are looked upon as victims rather than as criminals by the vast majority of society, then maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the law is wrong. After all, I always thought that the laws should reflect the will of the people, rather than being a tool for a minority to dictate their will against common opinion. Or am I wrong?

KK says:

Re: Re: "it's death to kill the King's deer,"

A friend of mine is doing his doctoral dissertation on a comparison of “data” crimes with the ever escalating “Forest Law” in pre-Norman England.
William Rufus (1087-1100) is supposed to have increased the severity of penalties for flouting Forest Law – death and mutilation apparently the penalties for interference with the King’s deer. Killing a deer was punishable by death. Those that shot at a deer had their hands cut off and blinding was the penalty for disturbing the deer.

Adam (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 One more thing...

More to the point of the topic:

Are we actually arguing here that just because the “average college student” violates these copyright laws that they should be changed or not enforced?

Having recently finished undergrad, I would venture to say that MORE college students drink underage than share files. Have our underage drinking laws changed at all just because they’re relatively unenforcable and are violated en masse?

Mattb says:

Sentences should fit the crime

The subject says it all. It is against the law to trade copyrighted work- the reason for it doesn’t matter. The songs cost to much, the RIAA makes too much money and is mean, yadda, yadda. I agree, but it is still stealing. That being the case, I don’t think it ranks up there with armed robbery, murder, drunk-driving, even shoplifting. Who are you hurting my trading songs- basically you are not giving money to the record companies and to the artists (though they get little anyway). Is this the same as physically hurting someone, stealing something, or causing damage- physical or electronic? I don’t think so. How about a slap on the wrist, or probation, or community service, or a small fine (couple hundred or less) for people that are trading a lot of songs (1000 or above sounds good enough to me). The punishment can get worse the more times a person is convicted, just like with other crimes. But alas, Congress is it the back pocket of the entertainment industry or whomever will pay them enough to be re-elected.

alternatives says:

Re: Sentences should fit the crime

It is against the law to trade copyrighted work

And enforcement should start with the staff that runs the government and their childern.

Where is the RIAA suit VS the armed service people in Iraq? all legal MP3’s? Or how about Paul Allen’s multi-terabyte MP3 server – is everything on it properly licensed?

If the RIAA doesn’t have the balls to go after soldiers or congress staffers, I have no reason to care about their bitching and moaning.

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