The proper penalty for piracy.
As most people know, online piracy is hurting the world’s creative industries. Illegal downloading of music, films and even books, is cutting into the earnings of creative people and companies around the world. Indeed, it is fair to say that online piracy is imperilling the very business models that allow these creative industries to exist. Musicians are earning ever less from their recordings; film box office takings are in decline and authors are finding that their books may end up being downloaded for free, more often than they are bought. The day is not far off, it seems, when creative people will not be able to make a living directly from their creative works, because of huge piracy. What will happen then? Well, it is simple. They will be forced to turn to other jobs. They will have to make a living NOT creating their works. When that happens, the world’s supply of books, films and music will dry up. So, what is at stake here, is the very future of human culture. If being creative doesn’t pay anymore and if people steal works for free, wholesale, quite simply the day will come when there will be no more works of any real quality, being published or distributed. Human culture will be dead.
Recently, the founders and operators of Megaupload, (Kim Dotcom and his co-conspirators), a website enabling online piracy, were arrested and are being charged in connection with their wholesale theft of copyrighted works. What, I wonder, is an appropriate punishment for such people? As I write, I am unaware of the penalty, but it seems to me that only one degree of penalty is appropriate. Online pirates should be sentenced to mandatory life in prison, as a minimum sentence. By mandatory life, I mean that they will never be released from prison until they have died. In my view, this is an appropriate punishment because their actions are killing world culture – they are acting so as to deprive all of humanity, of the benefits of creative work, by making such work thankless and completely unrewarding. So, I would urge prosecutors and the judges of the Megaupload conspirators to seek the maximal sentences. Indeed, perhaps they should be sentenced to time in jail, consecutively, for EACH ILLEGAL DOWNLOAD. That would guarantee complete life sentences. Furthermore, their ENTIRE assets should be confiscated and redistributed to those they have pirated. These sentences of life in prison, and complete confiscation of all assets should be applied to everyone who worked with the pirates in connection with the theft of copyright works. This is to discourage anyone from working for such employers or becoming involved in any way. Every single person involved should spend the rest of their lives, in jail.
The degree to which the arrest of the Megaupload conspirators will deter other pirates, will be determined by the severity of their sentences. Those sentences must be as severe as possible, in every way it is possible for them to be severe. Leniency, in the face of online pirates, will only hasten the end of human culture and its distribution. The most effective answer to online piracy will be the global hunting down and prosecution of everyone who has ever been involved in a piratical endeavour, followed by their complete impoverishment and a life sentence to boot. Were this done, online piracy would quickly come to an end, as such “entrepreneurs” factored the probability of a life in prison, into their assessments of the viability of such a business model.
I hope, for the sake of us all, that the Megaupload conspirators receive hefty sentences, preferably life. Then again, the pursuit of pirates should not stop with one company. All companies which enable such endeavours should face the same fate as the Megaupload conspiracy.
I realize that many people disagree with my view. I have seen much online comment in support of Kim Dotcom – indeed some even seem to think he is some kind of hero. I guess that these are the people who regularly download pirated goods off the Internet. They see Kim Dotcom as their enabler and thus worthy of support. They fail to see that their own actions are suffocating the very producers of the works they admire enough to steal. There is great irony here. Those who are motivated enough by their liking for cultural goods, to actually steal them, are creating a world in which, one day, there will be no new cultural goods left to steal. They are destroying the very thing they hope to steal.
We are left with a very simple choice. We can, as a global people, allow pirates to continue their “work” unhindered. Doing so will mean the eventual end of all cultural publication and distribution. Or we can punish the pirates so severely that, overnight, this particular “business model” vanishes, out of sheer fear of the consequences.
Jail the online pirates for life – and save world culture. It is that simple.
Posted by Valentine Cawley
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