Tuesday 10 May 2011

Karaoke hoarder becomes first Scottish file-share convict

Procurator Fiscal:
"Law and honour"
Via the ever-helpful Hector MacQueen comes news of a media release from the other side of Hadrian's Wall, issued earlier today by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Scotland. It reads as follows:

Anne Muir, 58, has become the first person in Scotland to be convicted for illegally sharing music files online. Muir pleaded guilty at Ayr Sheriff Court last month to a contravention of section 107(1)(e) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Muir, from Ayr, admitted to distributing £54,000 worth of copyrighted music files by making them available to others via a 'peer-to-peer' file sharing application.

Following an initial investigation by BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) and IFPI International Federation for the Phonographic Industry), a formal complaint was made to Strathclyde Police. Officers subsequently obtained a search warrant for her home at Gordon Street, Ayr, and seized vital evidence, including computer equipment.

This is the first conviction of its kind in Scotland and is particularly significant to the music industry.

District Procurator Fiscal for Ayr, 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. We will continue to work effectively with law enforcement in this area and to apply our robust prosecution policy."
Sentencing has been deferred until 31 May at Ayr Sheriff Court".
The BBC has supplied further details. Muir's lawyer Lorenzo Alonzi is reported as saying that his client, an auxiliary nurse at Ayr hospital, had not used the network for any financial gain, but to build up her self-esteem after suffering from depression for a number of years:
"Mrs Muir was not in any way trying to distribute on a large scale, she had a very big quantity of these files because she was hoarding -- a symptom of a severe obsessive personality disorder that she suffers from. She has, for many years, suffered from bouts of depression, which causes her to have extremely low self-esteem."
Her haul consisted of 7,493 digital music files and, truly depressingly, 24,243 karaoke files.

Much will depend on how the court treats Muir when it comes to the sentencing.  A low sentence will be seen as no more than a slap on the wrist and as a message that it's not worth prosecuting file sharers; a high one will make her into a martyr and can result in poor publicity for the copyright-reliant industries.  The court may have a tough job getting the right balance, particularly if Muir's mental state is a major issue.

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