Thursday, November 10, 2011

Copyright Infringement: Folks Are Going To Jail

Copyright infringement has been around for a long, long time. But it is really becoming a very dangerous idea. The traditional remedy for copyright infringement has always been money. If you copy my stuff, you have to pay me for it. The theory is that, unlike tangible property, you don't really deprive me of my intellectual property--only the value of it. By copying my stuff and selling the copies, you aren't depriving me of my stuff, only the value to me of selling my own stuff (or copies of my stuff). That just seems like a less offensive violation of my rights than, say, breaking in my house and stealing my stereo. It might be the same conceptually, but it just feels different.
But today, things are getting serious. Many, copyright owners are pressing the authorities to pursue criminal charges. For example, Hana Beshara, Matthew Smith, and Justin A. Dedemko of NinjaVideo have all pled guilty to criminal copyright infringement for making copies of movies freely available on the Internet.
Criminal charges are not limited to uploading movies either. Folks are being criminally charged for software copyright violations too, like Robert Cimino from New York and Manpreet Singh of Ohio. Criminal charges aren't even limited to people even. The company SAP has pled guilty to copyright infringement related to the Oracle copyright debacle. I thought crimes could only be committed by people, but I guess I was wrong.
In a recent case, Saidou Dia was sentenced to jail not only for copyright infringement but for failing to register as a sex offender. Now that is good company.
The point that I'm making is the one I have made before: Copyright protection is some of the strongest protection you can get for your intellectual property. Unlike patent law, which is being eroded to nothing by legislation and judicial activism, copyright law seems to be getting stronger and stronger.