I just got through reading this article on Boston.com about a Boston University student who is appealing a $67,500 verdict that he pay for getting caught for downloading music. The lawsuit comes from the ever-glorious RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). My two cents is that the US judicial system is lagging behind technology, especially on the music front. The amounts that people (mostly college students) get sued for for downloading music is outlandish, and furthermore, in many of the cases it's unclear as to whether or not the music was simply downloaded, or if it was downloaded and then shared to other people.
Two of my close friends were targeted for downloading music while at UMass a few years ago, and after they settled, each had to pay $3,000. And these two were not heavy downloaders and rarely downloaded anything - yet had to pay this very large amount (for college students with a limited income).
Where do these exuberant prices come from? I can see a high punishment being put out there to get others to stop sharing music illegally, but this is absurd. In the BU case the man was originally being held accountable for over $600,000. The punishment just doesn't seem (to me at least) to fit the crime. For one thing, the action is not a threat and causes very minor harm to recording artists (although done on a large scale they can be out thousands/millions of dollars). And recording artists are already rolling in the dough due to their outrageously priced concerts and merchandise that having to pay $600,000, most of which probably doesn't even go to them, is ridiculous.
And if the United States wants to crack down on copyright violations, why don't we look abroad!? When I was living in China you could find any US/Hollywood movie and TV series either copied or bootlegged over there. DVD stores were all over Beijing that sold copied discs of Hollywood films. Not to mention there are Chinese versions of YouTube which post full-length Hollywood movies with Chinese subtitles. Furthermore, there are actually Chinese computer programs that will search and retrieve any TV series or movie you want and load it up streaming to your computer. I'm not sure how it works, but I've both seen and used all of these resources. And from all of these outlets to watch Hollywood movies, not a cent is going towards America or the acting studios
And the same can be said about US music being sold and downloaded in China (and hundreds of other countries I'm sure). Again, my mindset remains: why do we punish our own people so severely when this behavior is rampant all over? Let's increase our international copyright laws and claims and hold others responsible as well.