Disturbing online copyright enforcement tactics from SOCA

The Serious Organised Crime Agency, having (apparently) solved and abolished all human trafficking, major gun crime, and industrial-scale money laundering, had some time on their hands. So, of course, they have started set about policing copyright infringement and taking down websites they suspected of distributing copyrighted music.

The use of one of the most powerful law enforcement agencies in the country to enforce a civil matter is worrying: probably unlawful function creep that suggests, with the most benign interpretation, that their boss (one Theresa May MP) isn’t exercising proper oversight.

The tactics they used were even worse. The SOCA notification page suggests that they are monitoring anyone who visited a particular website and recording their personal details, and that anyone who had used the site to download songs would be liable to ten years imprisonment. Ten years in the slammer for downloading some R&B music.

Note also that SOCA, a Government agency, repeats verbatim a line from the music recording industry’s PR people: that “as a result of music downloads, emerging artists have had their careers damaged. If you have illegally downloaded music you have damaged the future of the music industry.”

And the damage that an illegal music download can do is worth ten years in chokey.

Well really.

Let’s look at sentencing guidelines to see what you can get caught doing and get less than ten years in prison.

You can commit grievous bodily harm. You can commit an unlawful wounding. You can assault someone occasioning actual harm. In fact, if you assault someone you’ll probably get a community order, 6 months in a cell at most. Attempted murder can net you less than 10 years if you fail to actually hurt the victim. You can actually kill someone while driving that involved a deliberate decision to ignore (or a flagrant disregard for) the rules of the road and an apparent disregard for the great danger being caused to others AND GET LESS THAN TEN YEARS.

So according to SOCA, downloading an MP3 is worse than wounding someone with a knife or running them over and killing them.

Downloading a song is apparently worse than committing cruelty to a child of the most serious sort. Beating up a kid will get you two years at most.

You can even rape someone and it be judicially better than downloading a song, if you avoid actual penile penetration of your victim. Bonanza.

Maybe you feel like robbing someone by threatening them with a weapon or by using force so as to actually injure them during the course of the robbery? Less than ten years.

You can successfully carry out an aggravated burglary. You can raid a house wielding a knife, traumatise and steal from its inhabitants, and get significantly less than ten years imprisonment.

Which is to say that you can actually break into the house of an “emerging artist”, threaten them with a knife and rough them up a bit, then steal all their CDs, instruments, and recording equipment, and be treated, in sentencing terms, less harshly than if you downloaded one of their songs from a website.

I’d say that the British criminal justice system had its priorities wrong if SOCA’s claim was true… which, of course, it’s not.

Which makes me wonder… what are the sentencing guidelines for an officer of the law making outlandish threats and lying to the public during the course of his duties?

Published in: on February 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You forget that we live in a capitalist society, where property is worth more than life.

  2. C’mon son,

    Anything that damages tax revenue to the tune of millions is a serious crime, because that’s whats running society. Whilst amusing, your illustrations neglects to mention that crime accompanies poor societies and so there is every chance that by retaining revenue the government are reducing the number of more serious crimes. This is true of much of SOCA’s work – your straw man shouts “I don’t care about the tax loss and the accompanying social decline”.

    It may well be more harmful to pirate an artist than to rob them outright. A robbery is a one off occurrence where you lose a fixed value of capital, whereas piracy is a ongoing problem and will often cost a lot more than the value of goods your could carry in your arms. If you’re a dubstep artist you lose a lot more to piracy than if you’re a classical composer, as their product has far lower piracy ratios. As such, this is often a class specific crime – the poorest suffer, and a lot of these producers and artists wind up on the dole queue, some will go on to commit crimes.

    A large percentage of, for example, early drum and bass artists were ex-convicts. The music gave them something productive to do with their lives; the main meeting points for the music back then were full of people that had done time then started recording. So, if you get merked by an ex-drum and bass artist, remember : over simplification of social interactions can lead to boundless irony.

    I’ve read your comments on this subject before, and every time I do I think “there’s someone with absolutely no real-world experience of the issues he’s discussing”. I strongly suggest you spend a few years working at an independent UK record label. If you don’t really understand a topic, you should probably read and talk to more people instead of mouthing off publicly – your commentary reads “I PIRATE THINGS AND I’M PROUD, BIG DEAL!”. That’s fine, but by doing that you’ll need to demonstrate that you could run a society without the revenues of copyrighted materials and maintain living standards, something that hasn’t been achieved anywhere in the world. You sit on a throne and then decry the gold used to make it, maybe in the future you’d prefer the floor? A childs argument, free from the responsibilities of reality.

    If we don’t have control of our ideas, then we as a nation are doomed, because we don’t have anything else. We”ve ditched the manufacturing, mining, agricultural industries and invested in the service sector, which hinges on designing and selling copyrighted products. Now you’re saying we shouldn’t protect that – there are plenty of places that don’t : Russia, China and much of Africa – move there and see how well the individual can manoeuvre in society with little to no rights to their ideas. All that happens is that power and money winds up in the hands of those that already have it; just like before we started enforcing copyright here.

    Be seeing you.

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