The issue of intellectual property protection isn’t exclusively American and a pair of recent cases — in Denmark and Argentina — indicate that judges, as always, can apply their own interesting spins to key matters, offering some ideas, particularly on the quality of file-shared copies and the compensation due to aggrieved parties, that plaintiffs and defendants in U.S. litigation might or might not see as Yankee Doodle dandy.
The Court of Kolding (in Denmark) has ruled that Jonas Laeborg, the administrator of EliteBit BitTorrent tracker, is liable for copyright infringement by file-sharing. He was ordered to pay $18,500 to the rights-holders, who had sought $300,000. The compensation was reduced, due to Laeborg’s circumstances: He’s 19 and a poor student.
Given his finances, or perhaps despite them, the court struggled to assess the rights-holders’ due, with the judge noting a key reason for this dilemma, “since he could not assess the quality of the movies being offered via EliteBits, he found it difficult to know how much compensation to award the movie companies.” The implication of his statement: rights-holders may be entitled to less compensation if the qualityof the infringing copy is low.
Lawyers for rights-holders typically argue that their clients deserve more, because distribution of their product (a movie) in poor quality will affect its sales and reputation. Translation: if audiences view a cam-pirated movie, they may feel more negative about it and be more reluctant to see the original in a theater and to buy an authentic version.
One school of thought sees this legal argument failing because of this logic: Those who watch a cam copy expect its quality to be poor, but, if they enjoy a movie’s story line, they will return to a legitimate theater to see it or go to a store to buy the authentic version. Many people also enjoy movies too much to see poor quality versions.
As for Laeborg, perhaps he could hope for a change of venue — to Argentina. In a case heard in an Argentine appellate court, the judge decided that, in selling badly pirated movies, it was “impossible to jeopardize the credibility of the legitimate manufacturers” because buyers kne they were buying junk copies. Hypothetically speaking, if Laeborg’s case were shifted to Argentina, this latest ruling holds and the courts there also found he had shared a low quality file, he might have gotten dinged for even less than $18,500.