Criminal Copyright Infringement, Charitable

22 December 2009

Michael Geist brought to the Ippers’ attention a story about a record store owner in Ottawa, David Nolan, who pled guilty to copyright infringement for holding unauthorized copies of albums.  As the Ottawa Citizen reports, Nolan specializes in rare and hard to find recordings and many of the albums confiscated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were in fact not infringing.  The deal reached between Nolan and the Canadian government sets the number of infringing copies at 100.

The general tone of the comments on the Ottawa Citizen and Michael Geist’s blog is one of disdain for this type of copyright enforcement, disapproval for police resources being wasted on searching through a large record store for a handful of potentially infringing copies.

This Ipper, however, was struck more by something else.  The punishment in the deal between Nolan and the government is that Nolan must make a $1000 donation to the charity of his choice within three months.  Compare this to the amounts paid in the US for civil copyright infringement – the $1.92million judgment against Jammie Thomas or the $675,000 judgment in the Tenenbaum case.  Or even compare the $1000 charitable donation punishment to the punishments outlined for criminal copyright infringement in the US – up to a year in prison or a fine up to $5000 for infringing works for the purpose of commercial advantage.  (17 USC § 506 and 18 USC § 2319.)  The penalty is higher if the infringement involves reproduction or distribution.

The mounted police raiding a record shop to find a few infringing items might still make people uneasy, but this Ipper thinks as far as punishments for copyright infringement, this deal is the best she’s seen.  And, as one commenter on the Ottawa Citizen wrote, Nolan can always choose the EFF as his charity.

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