Update [31 May 2011]: Anne Muir has been sentenced on 31 May 2011 to three years’ probation & has been ordered to attend mandatory cognitive therapy treatment sessions for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Ms Muir is to return to court on Tuesday 30th August for a probation report.
58 year old Anne Muir admitted distributing copyright music worth £54,000 by distributing them on a peer-to-peer file sharing network.
Guilty under the CDPA 1988
Pleading guilty under section 107(1)(e) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, Muir was convicted following investigation by both the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) and International Federation for the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
Following the conviction, which will result in sentencing later in May 2011, prosecutor Mirian Watson said: “Intelligence gathered by BPI and IFPI revealed that Anne Muir was a prolific user of a particular file sharing network based in the UK. Illegally flouting copyright laws is tantamount to theft and not only deprives legitimate companies and artists of earnings, but also undermines the music industry as a whole.”
Unfortunately, in commenting on the conviction, District Procurator Fiscal for Ayr, Mirian Watson, succumbed to the music industry’s favoured but legally unsound analogy in cases of this kind when she said that “Illegally flouting copyright laws is tantamount to theft.
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This is a landmark case in Scottish legal history and a triumph for the music industry, although it should be stressed that this was a judgment from Ayr Sheriff Court, which may yet result in an appeal to the High Court and could, yet, be overruled.
The files included 7,493 digital music files and 24,243 karaoke files. While Muir’s lawyer insists there was no financial gain intended or received, the value placed on the files was over £50,000. Nevertheless, this is not an astonishingly large collection of music and, in any case, the music was not shared for the purpose of making money. Even from general knowledge, there remain many in the homes and streets of Scotland with larger collections of illegally acquired music – will we see these being targetted next if the owners are found to have shared their files after having downloaded them?
If we do, we must note the civil remedies available to the music publishing companies, which may stand alongside the criminal remedies such as the conviction outlined above.
And in that respect, if such civil claims are brought, it is hoped that the law firms acting for the publishers do a more professional job of that of ACS from the last couple of years. ACS, it should be remembered, sent people letters threatening court action unless they made “settlement” payments of up to £500 for copyright infringement. See this Guardian article on ACS Law. ACS then had its unsecured IT infrastructure hacked, disclosing thousands of emails and client details over the web. It was revealed that it was retaining up to 40% of payments made to the publishers. Following the breach of privacy, only today was it announced that Andrew Crossley, owner of ACS, which has all but disappeared from the map, has only been fined £1,000 by the Information Commissioner, rather than the £200,000-£500,000 initially forecast. Needless to say, privacy campaigners are furious. See this article from today’s Guardian.
The enforcement of IP and the right to privacy in Scotland and the rest of the UK will remain a heated issue over the course of the rest of 2011 and it will be interesting to see what Ms Muir’s sentence will be when she returns to Ayr Sheriff court on 31 May 2011.
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