Massive copyright lawsuits – not a great idea

I must confess, I truly do fail to understand why the entertainment industry embarked upon a campaign of massive copyright lawsuits against their own customers. There is a great deal to be said about all this, and also the obvious observation that technology has greatly disrupted their business model, but in what universe is suing your customers a good response.

There is much that could also be said about the concept of copyright itself. I do indeed understand the driving force. The originator of a work needs to be able to retain the rights to that work. Preserving income is desirable, and ensure that we can continue to receive a stream of future works … but then the industry appears to have lost the plot – exactly how many new works do we honestly expect John Lennon to produce by preserving the copyright of all he did?

Anyway, my intent now is not to rant about all that (perhaps another day), but rather to illustrate the pure insanity of the lawsuits. I’m motivated by the latest example of this utter insanity.

The Seattle Weekly News reports that … well here it is in their own words, read and weep and the shear scale of the stupidity …

The bad news arrived in John Doe 2,057’s mailbox in May. His wife unsealed a thick envelope from Comcast and read a carefully worded message explaining that a company called Imperial Enterprises, Inc. had filed a lawsuit against him in Washington, D.C., federal court. He stood accused of having illegally downloaded a copyrighted film five months earlier

Yet when Mrs. Doe set eyes on that ignominious title, she couldn’t help but crack a smile at the absurdity of the situation. Her husband is legally blind, with vision roughly 1/100th of that of a person with normal sight. He is physically incapable of watching any film

Yep, they are attempting to sue a blind man. Its sounds funny, but has serious implications. This chap holds down a job in which he is able to work using a pair of computer programs that read his e-mails aloud and magnify a portion of his computer screen, it could all  jeopardize his career.

Its not a unique case at all, this keeps on happening again and again. Perhaps I can remind you of the time that  the RIAA sued dead people for copyright infringement, and perhaps also add to that the case where the RIAA sued a family that didn’t even own a computer.

The other bit of insanity here is that these are not actually real lawsuits at all …

“These lawsuits are not geared toward going to trial,” says Robert Cashman, a Houston attorney who defends accused copyright infringers. “They’re geared as extortion schemes to pull out thousands of dollars for every accused downloader. It’s not illegal, it’s just wrong. It’s an abuse of the legal process.”

And so indeed we now live in an age where much has changed. Its a time when the entertainment industry dinosaur has embarked upon legalized extortion against its customers as a desperate move to generate income. However, this is also a time when my daughter spends more time watching YouTube and almost none watching TV.

The fundamental problem is this: An IP address doesn’t necessarily connect to a guilty party of any alleged wrong-doing online. This is for a number of reasons which does include the possibility of WiFi hacking. So while the entertainment industry persists in ignoring this reality, we will keep getting stories like this, and with it comes the message that rights holders are simply suing completely random people.

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