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37 Downloads? That’ll be $27,500…How Does a Court Determine What to Charge?

This topic angers me. Fines for infringement under the Copyright Act range from $750 to $150,000 per infringement. That’s a wide spectrum! More disturbing is that the Act leaves the pricing decision in the hands of the judge, without any real guidelines for them to follow.

This week, a judge ordered Whitney Harper to pay $27,500 for illegally downloading 37 songs…I’ll do the math for you – that’s $750 a song, i.e., the minimum allowed. Earlier this year, Joel Tenenbaum was held liable for $675,000 for file sharing 30 songs – that’s $22,500 per song. It gets better. Nearly a year ago, Jammie Thomas-Rasset was ordered to pay $1.92 million by a jury for downloading 24 songs…$80,000 per download! How does the court conclude how much to, for lack of a better word, charge per song? Is it based on the popularity of the song? Does Lady Gaga or Jay-Z rank higher than Skid Row or Journey because the former are currently more mainstream?

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But I’m Innocent, I Swear! This Website Proves It!

Who would have thought a comment as innocent as “Just walked into work at Cozen O’Connor-Toronto…so much work to get done” could potentially cause you so much trouble?

I came across an article this weekend by Tracy Staedter, titled “I’m Not Home: Please Rob Me”. Ready to become paranoid? Read the article – it’s short and to the point. Ever send out Evites? How about prior tweets, MySpace posts, etc. inviting people to your place and including an address? Bingo! Better pack up and move quick!

The website causing havoc is Check it out…make sure you aren’t on the site…then check again after every time you tweet, post, etc. Do you have the time to constantly check? Probably not. Should you? Probably. It may make you paranoid, but then again, shouldn’t you be? But should the creators of the website be blamed – legally, morally, ethically? Should they be held accountable for what you put out into the public realm? Can you sue for violation of your privacy rights? Do you really have an expectation of privacy in any of those posts? In an age where MySpace, Friendster and other social networking sites regularly have their records subpoenaed, why should anyone think that anything they post will be “private”? What piqued my curiosity even more was how this website could apply in the criminal or tort law application. Can this website be used to substantiate or corroborate an accused’s alibi – “Your Honor, look! I have proof that I wasn’t in the city when the crime occurred…I tweeted that I would be in Los Angeles!” Look, my knowledge of Canadian (or U.S., for that matter) Criminal Law/Procedure does not extend further than the 800 or so pages of textbooks I read while in law school. But surely this website can be put to more use than just what the creators intended. So long as a proper foundation is laid, and the purported evidence is relevant, it may be admitted, right? Something to definitely consider as a defense attorney.

The creators of the website claim the site is supposed to help us…to open our eyes to the evil out in the world. Call me crazy, but perhaps a simple email addressed to me would have been more appreciated…though it leaves one wondering if such a logical course of action would have been as effective.

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Does The World Need A U.N. Sponsored Cyber Peace Treaty? One Diplomat Emphatically Says Yes… As the U.S. Gears Up For A Cyberwar

As the cyber war of words heats up between the U.S. and China, the rest of the world is taking notice….and proposing action.

Most recently, the head of the United Nations’ communication and technology agency, Secretary General Hamadoun Toure of the International Telecommunications Union, proposed a treaty whereby member countries agree not to precipitate a cyber attack against other member countries. “The framework would look like a peace treaty before a war,” he is reported to have said.

Secretary Toure’s proposal follows a series of concerns expressed at last month’s World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, including a harsh warning that cyber attacks could amount to a declaration of war. According to Secretary Toure, “[a] cyber war would be worse than a tsunami – a catastrophe.” Because of the potential devastating consequences of a cyber war, the Secretary strongly recommended that countries agree not to harbor cyber criminals and “commit themselves not to attack another.” Of course, nothing is quite as simple as that. For example, John Negroponte, the former director of U.S. intelligence, cautioned that intelligence agencies would “express reservations” about such a treaty. Given the breadth and scope of China’s, Russia’s and other countries’ intelligence operations and their reported limits on information disclosures, Mr. Negroponte’s remarks likely would be echoed by other nations.

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