How Reasonable: German Court Fines Convicted File-Sharer €30

You may have seen the settlement yesterday, likely being appealed, in which a woman was ordered to pay $1.5 million for illegally downloading and sharing 24 songs. That’s $62,600 per song, far above the (equally arbitrary, but considerably more realistic) $2250 per song ruled as the absolute maximum in another court, during an earlier trial. Higher figures, particularly those requested by the recording industry, were called “monstrous and shocking,” and with luck, the new settlement will be similarly reduced (or successfully appealed).

Meanwhile, last week, a kid who was found to have shared two songs a few years ago was fined a grand total of €30 in a monstrously, shockingly reasonable decision by a court in Germany.

The court ruled that the most the kid could be held responsible for was essentially licensing the songs for private use. The number of people he shared the songs with could not be determined, and was presumed to be low, since the songs were not new and they were not shared for a significant amount of time. This is in stark contrast to the RIAA’s opinion that sharing once is quantitatively and qualitatively similar to sharing a million times.

They fined the kid what they estimated it would have cost him to license the songs at the time, and surprisingly, put nothing on top of that as a fine for circumventing the laws in place for getting such a license (which to be honest, I would have considered a reasonable punishment for him or me).

Whether this was an exceptional case or important precedent isn’t clear, and of course decisions in foreign courts have little bearing for US cases. But It’s good to be able to point to another country and say “there, at least, they’re civilized when it comes to this sort of thing.”