Bill Patry has an excellent post on his blog highlighting the travesty of criminalization of copyright infringement. He writes about Hew Griffiths, an Australian who was heavily involved in software piracy. Griffiths has been extradited to the United States to face charges of copyright infringement and “conspiracy” to infringe copyright (the offense of “conspiracy” being one of the biggest jokes ever perpetrated by our criminal law system: it is meant to be one of those catch-all offenses, not hard to prove, to compensate for the chance you can’t nab a criminal on the real crime).

Although he was a software pirate in Australia, Australia allowed his extradition. He apparently would have just agreed to serve time in Australia, which doesn’t seem unreasonable, but the US didn’t let him get away with that.

This isn’t a question at all, as the Wikipedia article on Griffiths suggests, of sovereignty. None of this impinges upon Australia’s sovereignty. The real question to me is one of criminality. These kinds of draconian responses to purely economic damages, which fall well short of inflicting the harm of, say, the economic damages of Enron, act as an illustration of the undue influence of special interests in our copyright law system as well as a signal to institutions that copyright law is an enemy to be feared and respected.

My legal fees up, your museum accession funds down.

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