I Can Sue!!

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The reason why I’m saying these things is not to tell you that the MP3 Police will be showing up tonight or any time. It just that some of you think if you ever got one of these things, it’ll be, “Well, I’ll just sue them, automatically win a ton of money, and nobody can touch me.”

Got a note about this comment I made:

Wouldn’t be surprised if a couple on the fringes actually started incorporating real viruses into fake songs.

Here’s what I got from someone, and my answers. I’m putting this up because this raises some reasonable questions, and you should know what the answers are.

I certainly hope record companies begin to send viruses in their spoofed files, then I can sue their ass.

Of course, by doing that, you’ve effectively pleaded guilty to copyright violation, which subjects you to criminal penalties. Submitting proof that they did it submits proof you violated the law.

I don’t know if these guys would try to put you in jail, but if you sue them, they’ll certainly file charges against you, and the maximum penalty for copyright violation is a hell of a lot more than anything you could prove for damages.

For openers, under 17 USC 506(b), if you were convicted of copyright violation, all your computer equipment could be seized.

It doesn’t matter if the user is doing something illegal or not, if it can be proved their ass is grass as this proves malicious intent.

It matters very much to you if you submit proof you did something illegal. You don’t automatically receive a “Get Out of Jail Free” card even if you prove damage. In that case, you both are guilty.

When I wrote this, I was thinking about nasty stuff, but this comment got me thinking. If all the virus does is flash a screen saying, “This person downloaded illegal files” (or the legally appropriate equivalent); I think you’d have a pretty rough time showing inappropriate damage.

So if they screw up your computer, you can simply say it fried the components inside as well and sue.

Uhhh, you just don’t go to court and say that, and the court says, “Yes, sir! How much would you like?” You have to show proof that this was at least a pretty likely reason for this to happen. Only an idiot would throw a truly destructive virus in there, anyone else putting up something like
the screen I described above could easily show any virus could do no such thing, while happily accepting that slam-dunk case against you for copyright violation.

If somebody tried that, you have a choice. You either stay quiet and reformat, or go to court and lose more than you could possibly gain.

I doubt we’re going to see this big time unless the music industry really gets desperate. While I think a good legal case can be made for doing this, this would be a public relations disaster if just a few music producers tried this. (If they all did, that’s a different story.)

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