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Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 19th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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The law sells-out to big money

16 February 2012

Helicopters, armed police, asset seizures without proof of guilt and imprisonment before conviction without bail -- those are the seemingly unjust actions of the NZ government in respect to Kim Dotcom and his alleged copyright infringing activities.

Now you might think that's pretty severe but it's starting to look as if it's just the tip of a very nasty iceberg.

This morning we awoke to find that UK police are now engaging in similarly draconian actions in respect to copyright infringement.

Remember -- we're not talking about a violent assault. We're not talking about rape, murder or even armed robbery. We're talking about people moving bits and bytes of data around the Net using their computers, phones and tablets.

Yet, despite the relatively low (in most people's minds) severity of the crime, the actions and penalties being talked about are unbelievably severe.

In the case of the latest infringement policing in the UK, the RnBXclusive music sharing site has been shut down by police and an arrest made.

Fair enough you might think.

But wait... there's more...

Instead of charging the operator of the site with copyright offenses, the site's operator has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

WTF? Remember that the only reason the FBI was able to recruit the NZ police to act on their behalf when arresting Kim Dotcom and raiding his house was because they included racketeering and money-laundering charges amongst their allegations.

It seems that police and prosecutors are playing dirty, very dirty indeed.

It also leaves me wondering if there's any point in having copyright laws -- if prosecutions are going to be made on the grounds of far more serious offenses, even when the alleged offender has simply operated a file-sharing site.

Those who used the RnBXclusive website to swap files should also be worried.

It seems that a "scare campaign" is now being kicked-off, with a view to dissuading users from daring even visit such sites.

In respect to this case, the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has stated "those who downloaded them [music files] could face up to 10 years in jail and an unlimited fine".

Stop the bus!

Ten years jail and an unlimited fine -- for unlawfully downloading a copyrighted music file?

Compare this to the penalty for shoplifting a CD.

Compare this to the penalty for committing an armed robbery to steal a CD -- or indeed, an entire truck-load of CDs.

This is sheer and utter lunacy and must be stopped.

It is now patently obvious that the recording and movie industries are spending inordinate amounts of money to "buy" strategic power within the legal system.

Need more proof?

Well here's what SOCA said about the nature of the "crime" of filesharing:

"As a result of illegal downloads, young, emerging artists may have had their careers damaged. If you have illegally downloaded music, you will have damaged the future of the music industry."

If that isn't a line direct from the PR department of the music industry I don't know what is.

Now I'm dead against any form of copyright infringement -- but I'm even more against this blatant abuse of the legal system by a bunch of rich corporations with the money to buy whatever favours they desire.

When things get so bad that the penalties for simply downloading a file exceed those for committing a robbery, committing a violent assault or even committing manslaughter -- something is wrong, very, very wrong.

I also find it rather hypocritical that the recording industry are pleading for the rights of their members when we regularly see stories like this one in the media.

Let's be honest, the recording industry cares only about their own self-interest.

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