Monday, May 16, 2011

Get Your Hands Off My Brain!

The producers of The Expendables, represented by the US Copyright Group (USCG), has had a subpoena request approved by a federal judge. This request is being sent to find out the identities of over 23,000 bittorrent users who downloaded this crappy movie. (FYI, I've never seen the movie but if 23,000 people didn't feel your movie was worth waiting and coughing up a buck at the redbox, your movie sucks.)

The most egregious part is each offense is punishable by up to $150,000 fine, per download. That seems way out of whack with any sense of "justice" when a theater ticket costs at most $20. And then, to top that off, the USCG isn't even seeking justice; they want to settle at about $3000/download. Their coyright trolls, not intellectual property defenders.

Cases like this and this, where copyright trolls buy up rights just to sue, should have the US rethinking it's entire process for intellectual property. The whole purpose of property rights is to divide up scarce resources. Then supply and demand market forces price that property based on it's relative scarcity. Ideas are not scarce. The internet revolution has properly priced idea-based creations down to $0.

"But, what about making money off of your ideas?" Well, if your idea is good, it will make money. The problem for the producers in this case is that after downloading the movie and watching it most decided, rightfully so, that it wasn't worth buying. Hence, good ideas are scarce and have a monetary value. Bad ideas get downloaded and trashed. Unfortunately, we're stuck with these laws that go against the grain of reality.

But if we're going to have intellectual property laws, two rules:
  1. Punishment fits the crime - $150,000/download is outrageous.
  2. Ban copyright trolls - The only person benefiting from lawsuit should be the "victim." Companies that buy up copyrights for the sole purpose of suing, should have no place in our legal system. It is a distortion of justice.
If you do find yourself up against copyright trolls, contact the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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