Why we should thank, and hate, Pirates
Matthew Chow, a member of the infamous “Rabid Neurosis”, or RNS as they were better known, has been found ‘not guilty’ by a jury of his peers. Chow was on trial for the charge of ‘conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement’. In other words…Digital Piracy Yarrrrrr!
According to the federal indictment, authorities claimed that RNS was the world’s largest music piracy ring. Between [at least]1999 and 2007, Chow and co-conspirators illegally uploaded thousands of copyright-protected music files, which were provided by music industry insiders. In 1996, RNS released their first file, Metallica’s Ride the Lightning (Yes, this WAS one of the bugs up Lars Ulrich’s ass), and finished their 11 year run with Fall Out Boy’s Infinity on High. The group’s most notable claim-to-piracy-fame was the early leak of Eminem’s Encore album.
Federal authorities charged Chow with one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years, and a $250,000 fine. Moreover, Chow could have been ordered to pay restitution to the RIAA, the only named victim in the crime.
“I am relieved by the jury’s verdict and I am grateful to my attorney for his hard work,” says Chow. Houston attorney Terry W. Yates, who represented Matthew Chow comments, “We encountered some extremely complex factual and legal issues in this case. The jury was very attentive during the trial. Their verdict was just.”
In total, six members of RNS were charged with offenses. Patrick L. Saunders was charged on Aug. 14th, 2009, and plead guilty. James A. Dockery was charged on Sept. 8th, 2009. Adil R. Cassim, Bennie Glover, Matthew D. Chow, and Edward L. Mohan were all charged on Sept. 9th, 2009. Only Chow and Cassim were found not guilty. The remaining four pled guilty to copyright infringement charges, three of which turned state’s evidence and testified for the government in the Houston trial.
Sooooo…what can we learn from this? There’s a number of things (both right and wrong) going on in this mess. I often wonder Karlheinz Brandenburg had any idea how his work might effect the lives, carriers, criminal records, of thousands and thousands of individuals. My thoughts on piracy are this: Find me a computer in this world that doesn’t have at least one pirated line of code on it, and I’ll find you a box to ship it in, because it’s gotta be factory fresh.
I’m not saying that I support music or software piracy, but rather – accept that they are here, and rapidly becoming, if not already, ingrained in our daily lives. I think we all know by now that Musicians aren’t making any money from record sales. The upside to this new economy is that Musicians are making money the old fashioned way, by going out on the road, playing shows, and earning it. In fact, there are a number of bands that have already embraced this philosophy, and have given away their music (think Coldplay, Radiohead, NIN), and let’s not forget about The Grateful Dead and Phish, who for years, have allowed legal taping and trading of their live performances.
Likewise, the video game industry has been (and will perhaps always be) fraught with disc pirates. The solution? One small company in Korea decided to start giving games away, and charging one small piece at a time. The result? Microtransactions and social gaming as we know them today.
The positive way to look at the entire RIAA and copyright laws, etc. is that yes, it’s going to happen. However, that doesn’t mean that innovation and competition can not drive a better mousetrap. In a way, we all owe pirates a debt of gratitude. In another way, I blame them for the $75 ticket price, and $0.99 for a digital sword.