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The Almighty Buck The Courts Your Rights Online

Lord Lucas Says Record Companies "Blackmail" Users 236

Kijori writes "Lord Lucas, a member of the UK House of Lords, has accused record companies of blackmailing internet users by accusing people of copyright infringement who have no way to defend themselves. 'You can get away with asking for £500 or £1,000 and be paid on most occasions without any effort having to be made to really establish guilt. It is straightforward legal blackmail.' The issue is that there is no way for people to prove their innocence, since the record company's data is held to be conclusive proof, and home networking equipment does not log who is downloading what. Hopefully, at the very least, the fact that parliament has realised this fact will mean that copyright laws will get a little more sane."
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Lord Lucas Says Record Companies "Blackmail" Users

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  • by tomtomtom ( 580791 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:47AM (#31032178)

    Finally a politician who acts like they have a pair, working in government to actually bring the issues faced by the Great British public to light.

    Lord Lucas [blogspot.com] is a Conservative hereditary peer, and a "backbencher" at that - so he is not working in government at all at present and neither is he likely to be even after the election. In many respects this is a shame, because he's one of the few people who have been pointing out some of the other heinous flaws in the Digital Economy Bill (i.e. the parts apart from the copyright regime - the powers it gives the government to take over the UK Domain Name Registry for one).

    Actually on the whole the politicians who act most independently tend to be the remaining hereditary peers because they owe their position and therefore "allegiance" to rather fewer people than almost anyone else in government (they are technically elected to sit in the house from amongst all hereditary peers by the existing members of the House of Lords but the pool of candidates is small and once elected they are there until death or, more likely, further reform of the House of Lords occurs).

  • by VJ42 ( 860241 ) * on Friday February 05, 2010 @05:22AM (#31032572)

    Well that's a matter for the courts to decide and unfortunatly for you they have decided.

    Yes, in UK law they decided that information wasn't property and thus couldn't be stolen. See the case ofOxford v Moss [wikipedia.org] for more detail.

  • Re:Lord Lucas (Score:4, Informative)

    by VJ42 ( 860241 ) * on Friday February 05, 2010 @05:34AM (#31032652)
    That was Lord Lucan, not Lord Lucas
  • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:16AM (#31032846)

    The Digital Economy bill has been in the lords of the last few weeks for debate. It's been grossly under-reported even on IT news sites, but to anyone that's been keeping an eye, Lucas has been quite the hero. He's been one of the the main people consistently questioning the logic of the bill's three strikes provision and so forth.

    He's a smart guy, he seems to understand how the bill's plans run completely counter to hundreds of years worth of citizens hard earned legal and fundamental rights.

  • by delinear ( 991444 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:16AM (#31032848)

    You're right, the House of Lords gets a lot of negative press, and perhaps that's a legacy of what it used to be like with hereditary peerages and a lot of people deciding the laws of the country purely because of who their ancestors were, but yes it's changed a lot and is actually now a very useful legislative tool (along with its judicial function). It's great that people with a lifetime of skills and experience aren't simply discarded but have a real input into the way our laws are decided, and although its structure is partisan, the voting generally isn't, people generally vote with their conscience not just to bolster their party line.

    A lot of the Lords' powers to block laws have been stripped away by the Parliament Acts unfortunately. As you mention certain legislation can bypass the Lords completely, I think this includes anything to do with finance and taxation, and on top of that no law can be delayed in the House of Lords for more than - IIRC - two parliamentary sessions, so while they used to be able to send laws back to "the other place" indefinitely, now they can only delay for effectively about a year. It's good that they can't hold up new laws forever, but at the same time a strong government can pretty much force through anything it wants now - as we've experienced in the last decade.

  • by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:35AM (#31032924) Homepage

    Unfortunately for you the this is U.K. law and the legislation makes it quite clear the offense is "making unauthorised copies" and not theft, and is only criminal if you are doing it for profit.

  • by arethuza ( 737069 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @07:32AM (#31033126)
    I don't think there is such a status as "Royal" in the UK system - either you are a Commoner, a Peer or the Sovereign.
  • by NotBornYesterday ( 1093817 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @09:31AM (#31033730) Journal

    I'd like to ask them what the hell is the difference in me stealing a CD from a music store and me "making unauthorised copies" of a friends CD?

    IANAL, or more appropriately, IANAS (I Am Not A Solicitor)

    When you take a CD from a store, you are taking a piece of their physical inventory. They have lost a real, tangible asset to you that they paid actual, countable money for.

    When you copy a friend's CD, you are DUPLICATING a physical asset, meaning that the store has all the inventory they had paid for before you copied it. They have not experienced an actual loss. Now, there are a number of imaginative people out there who like to construe this as theft, and they have done a good job of spinning "unauthorized duplication" into "theft" in the minds of many. Of course, that bit of fiction is designed to serve the interests of the copyright owners, not serve as legal advice. Also, this artificial construct ignores the evidence that many who illegally copy music are trying it, not necessarily trying to keep it. A significant number go on to buy the music, which they might not have if they hadn't "borrowed" it.

    Both give ME, the same net result, which is obtaining a product or property without paying, and therefore FOR PROFIT, yet violations of each are treated completely different.

    Achieving the same net result does not necessarily mean that the same crime (if there is one) was committed. For example, if I killed someone, it could easily be a) murder (intent, motive), b) manslaughter (accidental, but with responsibility), or c) self-defense (unfortunate, but justifiable). Furthermore, I could argue that you didn't really get the same net result. If you stole the CD, you would possess the cover art, jewel case, and a pressed CD. If you copied the music, you might have bothered to actually burn a CD copy of it (inferior to pressed CD in lifespan, cost of media comes out of your pocket, not theirs, unless you stole that too) without taking the case and copying the art, but more likely you just downloaded the mp3 files, which although enjoyable, are measurably inferior to the store-bought product. As a matter of fact, at this point, you have come closer to a song recorded over the radio than stealing a CD from a store.

    Your interpretation of "profit" is a loose one. Personal gain is not profit.

  • by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <.moc.xobreven. . ... .vidavsxd54sals.> on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:04PM (#31035198) Homepage

    Not that I mind that much, but who came up with making copies being "not theft" and "not criminal"? I'd like to ask them what the hell is the difference in me stealing a CD from a music store and me "making unauthorised copies" of a friends CD?

    Because theft means, and has always meant through history, 'unlawfully removing ownership of property from someone who already owns it'. (Ownership being the right and ability to use property for your own purposes. It is the ultimate 'control' of property, as opposed to possession, which is just who controls it at any one time.)

    Theft is not just 'taking', in fact. That's just one form of theft, 'theft by taking'.

    You also have 'theft by conversion', where you turn the property of someone else into a different form, such as building a desk out of someone else's lumber, and not attempting to take the desk. Still theft.

    And some places have 'theft by destruction' or 'theft by vandalism', which is when you just entirely or mostly destroy something of someone else.

    And there's 'theft by fraud', where you mislead someone who is in legal possession of property, or the owner of property, into 'transferring ownership' to you under certain false pretenses. For example, using counterfeit money to buy things. (Which is illegal by itself, but it's also theft by fraud.)

    And there's 'theft by misappropriation', where you are in legal possession of property you don't own, but attempt to do something that only the owner can do, such as sell it. Just because you have been been granted the right and ability to use property, aka 'loaned property', by the owner doesn't mean you can do anything with it.

    Please note I said 'the owner'. Theft by misappropriation is taking the ability of the owner to control his property. The owner of a CD is not able to copy it, nor have you removed those rights if you copy it, and, as you're doing it with the owner of a CD's permission anyway, it would hardly matter.

    Not all places distinguish in exactly these ways, and not all of them call all the offenses 'theft', but the common thread holding together the various forms of theft is: At some point, someone owned something, and the thief changed things by removing it from their control.

    As making copies doesn't remove control of anything from the owner of the CD without their consent, it cannot be theft. (Even making copies without their consent isn't actually theft, and probably legal if you can do it without breaking some other law. It's like sitting on lawn furniture in someone's front yard without damaging it, but without permission. You are not intending to deprive anyone of anything. You are using someone else's property without permission, but that is not ipso facto illegal if it doesn't deprive them. Whether or not you're trespassing is another matter.)

    Now you could steal in a copyright itself, if you filed various legal papers falsely transferring it to you. That would probably be 'theft by fraud', which is often just covered under fraud statues.

    Theft is, technically, speaking, referred to as 'permanently depriving' someone of a thing, although I hate to use that word because people get into a stupid mode when they insist companies have been deprived of 'profits'. Unless you're stating that profits have been stolen, profits haven't been deprived by theft. Stealing my car is theft because it deprived me of my car, not because it deprived me of a way to work. I have never owned 'a way to work', and, likewise, I have never owned hypothetical future profits, and can be deprived by theft of neither.

    Of course, if a civil suits happens, those might be unlawful damages to me that I can get compensation for, but damages != theft, especially since damages aren't automatically illegal. (For example, you can spread true, but damaging, facts about me.)

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