So another case has come along to illustrate the excesses of the US system of statutory penalties for copyright infringement–here, a $1.5 million judgement against a guy for sharing 10 porn films on BitTorrent. Previous infringement cases suggest that there will be ample room to bat this around on appeal. The $1.5 million penalty may not stick. But what a waste of time and money that will be. What if we could start with a rationale outcome?
Fortunately, we can rely on the wisdom of the American people to lead the way. In addition to the legal reasons for treating such penalties as excessive and disproportionate, we can, for our part, throw in popular opinion. As we noted a couple posts ago, penalties for infringement attract only 51% support among adults (in our recent survey of 2303 Americans). Nearly all of this group supports the use of fines for infringement. Another 7% will consider the circumstances. So let’s look at fines.