Friday, August 01, 2008

grandmother jailed for...

In the posting below, I go after the tired copyfighter rhetoric that results in almost every discussion of digital copyright eventually making reference to some poor guild of buggy whip manufacturers who saw their business decimated with the introduction of the motorized carriage (no whips required). I happen to know that Phineas J. Snide, owner of the Acme Buggy Whip company was so upset by the crumbling future for his business that he attempted to shoot himself. A whip-man, he was a terrible shot with a gun. The bullet missed his temple, smashed through his window and into the ground outside his rural Texas home, rupturing an oil deposit that made him one of the earliest multi-millionaires of the newfound auto industry. Let's leave the buggy whippers to rest. They did okay, and managed to even stay in the personal transportation encouragement business.

As we head into another blissful summer long weekend, I am wondering about another popular rhetorical figure of the copyfight -- that grandmother jailed for the illegal downloading performed on her computer by her grandkids. I hear about her all the time -- how the American DMCA encourages the jailing of teenagers and grandmothers, and how Canada's Bill C-61 will do the same (Canadian grandmothers, boo!). Apparently, this grandmother paid her ISP bill, which made her the person of record on the offending computer, so when the big bad RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) was looking for their next victim, she was it.

Who is this grandmother? What's her name? Is she in jail?

I did a whole bunch of research googling to find out, but so far I have come up with not much at all. In the process, I discovered that lots of grandmothers do all sorts of nasty things, and go to jail for doing them. Apparently, being generation one of three is NOT always a motivation for exceptional behaviour.

Please, if you know the grandmother in question, or of her, I'd be very interested in learning her full story. My comment stream is open to you.

I happen to agree that paying an ISP bill is not a nasty thing, and I also agree that certain corporate copyright holders have taken really incorrigible legal missteps in their attempts to protect the value of the intellectual property they own. In my google travels, I note several recent (recent? 2005? does that count as recent?) US legal decisions that have tempered the legal dangers everyone seems to be so afraid of from the DMCA (and by extension -- thank you Michael Geist -- from C-61).

Is there a DMCA grandmother Gitmo? And if so, is it so secret that even Google can't find it? Considering Google knows what flowers my girlfriend grows in her garden, I just assumed they knew everything.


Infringer said...

"I happen to know that Phineas J. Snide, owner of the Acme Buggy Whip company was so upset by the crumbling future for his business that he attempted to shoot himself."

I truly think there much here that the recording industry could learn from.

Actually I think perhaps they already have with their lawsuits, and they are proving themselves to be just as poor a shot.

John McFetridge said...

On this blog I have learned from Russell that there has never been any serious downloading of copyrighted material - he's got the numbers to prove it.

And I've learned from Darryl that it's a bad idea to try and enforce a law that no one likes and everyone is ignoring - every teenager in the ocuntry would be a criminal.

It can't be both. Either there is rampant downloading or there isn't.

Or, people will just say whatever suits them to get what they want.

By the way, had a great time at The Pinery and now we're going to try Ferris Provincial Park. Ever been there?

John said...

Well, McF, I have to say I'm surprised that no-one has commented with a link to the name of the actual grandmother in question. It's been four days since I posted the question.

On the other hand, in a private e-mail from a noted copyfighter, I was directed to this link:

Dead Grandmother Sued by RIAA

... which reports that the late Gertrude Walton (a grandmother) was named in a round of RIAA lawsuits in early 2005, as the perpetrator of over 700 illegal downloads. Since Ms. Walton was deceased, and since her family insisted she never owned a computer, RIAA admitted their error and quickly dropped the suit.

This link was sent to me somewhat triumphally, which leads me to ask -- this? this is the the source of the grandmother scare tactics? A dumb mistake by an overzealous band of corporate lawyers?

Perspective please.

Imagine that -- a highly placed combatant in the copyfight admitting an error. It kind of gives one hope, doesn't it?

Infringer said...

"It can't be both."

I'm curious what Russell calls "serious downloading of copyrighted material.

It doesn't have to be absolutely everyone to make the law unenforceable. It only took blacks in the American south to force the segregation laws to change. It only took woman to change voting laws. Perhaps it will only take teenagers to change copyright law.

Glad to here you had fun at the Pinery. It's a bit of a crap shoot with the weather this year. I'm planning a one week interior trip in Algonquin in a couple of weeks. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for sunny skis. I hate paddling in the rain.

This whole grandmother thing, I think is a little overblown here. Honestly I don't think I've heard much reference to anybodies grandmother WRT copyright for a long time. Generally it's the college students that you hear about these days.

John McFetridge said...

"Perhaps it will only take teenagers to change copyright law."

Great, a revolution led by teenagers, just what we need.
They would do more good for the world making a run at drug laws...