Wednesday, February 17, 2010

and an angry little child shall lead them

If the entertainment industry can't figure out how to deal with digital media as a commodity, how about letting the criminal justice system should have a go? The entertainment industry doesn't know how to properly monetize a digital transaction, but it seems a courtroom knows when a digital crime is being committed:
When Amy was a little girl, her uncle made her famous in the worst way: as a star in the netherworld of child pornography. Photographs and videos known as “the Misty series” depicting her abuse have circulated on the Internet for more than 10 years, and often turn up in the collections of those arrested for possession of illegal images.

Now, with the help of an inventive lawyer, the young woman known as Amy — her real name has been withheld in court to prevent harassment — is fighting back.

She is demanding that everyone convicted of possessing even a single Misty image pay her damages until her total claim of $3.4 million has been met.
It's a sick kind of royalty payment -- except where Hollywood producers claim (and unions reject) that full royalties for the distribution of (non-exploitative) events via the internet is unsustainable, "Amy" is hoping the economic effects of her digital retransmission will be ruinous on its perpetrators.

This is part of a larger (and far more serious) debate about society's treatment -- or lack thereof -- of sexual offenders. And while we would not want to trivialize the victim in this case for as much as a nanosecond, there is an interesting philosophical debate on the margins of this case:
Some experts argue that forcing payment from people who do not produce such images but only possess them goes too far.
So here is the question as it relates to the issues of digital distribution: some are arguing that possessing, but not creating, these images does not constitute an act of abuse on the original victim, and thus they don't owe her restitution.

Hollywood producers argue that viewing a performance on your computer, rather than in the movie theater or on a television screen, constitutes a less-valuable (if not outright criminal) transaction. How long will that argument hold water?

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