10th May 2011 18:20
Pirate Party UK outraged by Scottish filesharing conviction
The Pirate Party UK was appalled to hear today of the conviction of 58 year-old auxiliary nurse Anne Muir in the Ayr Sheriff Court under section 107(1)(e) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act for alleged peer-to-peer file-sharing. This is the first criminal conviction for P2P file-sharing in Scotland.
As the Procurator Fiscal, her defence lawyer, and the Sheriff all should have been aware, 107(1)(e) is aimed at physical copyright infringement. She should never have been charged under that section, let alone convicted; a different section - 107(2A)(b) - was added in 2003 specifically to deal with file-sharing and similar, online activities. It should be noted that a conviction under the correct section carries a maximum prison sentence a fifth of that of the wrong section.
Rob Harris, Pirate Party candidate for the West of Scotland region in 2011 Scottish elections, said:
This is a travesty. It clearly demonstrates that, when it comes to Internet copyright infringement, the officers of the court don't understand the law which they are attempting to apply, and are being wilfully misled in an suit clearly guided and controlled by industry interests.
This was not the only aspect of the case that was a grave cause for concern for the Pirate Party. The Procurator Fiscal in question, Mirian Watson, has stated that the principal evidence used in the case was gathered by the BPI and IFPI, and described Mrs Muir's alleged file-sharing activities as "tantamount to theft" — a fallacy heard far too often coming from officials who should know better.
Loz Kaye, leader of the Pirate Party, said:
The data collection methods used by these companies have been shown repeatedly to be unreliable in the USA. This case smacks of allowing the courts to be used as private company enforcers, and that fact should have been challenged by Mrs. Muir's lawyer.
This is yet another example of the way that less well-off people are disadvantaged in the courts by being denied access to competent legal representation.
In addition, the Party is concerned that, by pleading guilty, Mrs. Muir has succumbed to excessive pressure brought to bear on her by the BPI and IFPI. In previous cases involving alleged criminal file-sharing, while most of the defendants were persuaded to plead guilty and were subsequently convicted, the one defendant who challenged the allegations was eventually released without charge. In none of the cases was the evidence gathered by the BPI ever tested.
Laura-Anne Riach, Pirate Party candidate in the West of Scotland region, added:
Mental illness is a vicious circle and music has been shown to have a positive effect on those struggling to cope with depression. It is disgraceful that Mrs. Muir should have been so pursued in such an aggressive and potentially damaging way, rather than given the support she needs in this difficult time.
In any case, at a time when nationwide cuts are threatening jobs and services all over Scotland and the rest of the UK, why are we spending vast amounts of public money on these kind of suits where the alleged infringement is completely non-commercial and for personal use only?
Finlay Archibald, Pirate Party candidate for the Glasgow region in 2011 Scottish elections, concluded:
We've seen organisations like the BPI and IFPI exercise worrying levels of influence over politicians (e.g. in pushing through the Digital Economy Act) and now ,in this case, over our legal system. The effects include the victimisation of ordinary hard-working nurses like Mrs Muir, and, if and when the Digital Economy Act comes into force, families across the country.
Now more than ever, we need politicians who will stand up for people like Mrs Muir against the bullying tactics of the BPI and IFPI. The Pirate Party UK is the only political party willing to do this.