Monday, September 15, 2003

Do the crime, Pay the fine

My Network World colleague Paul Macnamara thinks that its "Time to pay the piper" As he says in his column this week: "Those who had to swallow subpoenas - and write checks for thousands of dollars, in some cases - downloaded more than a thousand purloined files and made their stashes available to any and all comers over the 'Net. That's not 'sharing.' That's distributing stolen goods, even if the distributor isn't receiving any money in return and even if the distributor is in junior high school or a member of AARP.

Copyright violation is not a "victimless crime" by any means - real people suffer real economic loss when illegal trading occurs. But we (the collective "we", that is) don't want to see this as a crime any more than we think parking in a handicapped space ("just for a moment, while I pick up a latte") or driving alone in the car pool lane ("I had to pass that slow poke!") or even releasing a worm on the Internet (" came completely out of the blue that I was going to be arrested and charged with this offense”, said Jeffrey Lee Poarson when he was charged with spreading the Blaster worm).

If you don't like a law, then work to get it changed. If you want to demonstrate the law's problems through "civil disobedience", then be prepared to suffer the consequences of your act as you work for the greater good. But if you're simply lazy, or cheap, then you'd better be ready to pay the fine or do the time because eventually the law will catch up with you.

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