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58yo Mentally Ill Scottish Nurse Convicted for File-Sharing


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Anne Muir becomes the first person in Scotland to be convicted for illegally sharing music files online. UK Pirate Party cries foul over the fact that she was charged with physical commercial infringement rather than under the amendment to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 that geared towards noncommercial illegal file-sharing. Defense attorney claims a variety of mental disorders are to blame and not "any desire to make money."

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has announced that Anne Muir has become the first person in Scotland to be convicted for illegally sharing music files online.

Last month the 58yo nurse pleaded guilty at Ayr Sheriff Court for violating section 107(1)(e) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

It reads:

(1)A person commits an offence who, without the licence of the copyright owner—

(e)distributes otherwise than in the course of a business to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright,

Muir admitted to illegally distributing £54,000 ($88,279 USD) worth of copyrighted music files via an unidentified P2P program. The investigation began following a formal complaint made by the BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) and IFPI (International Federation for the Phonographic Industry).

"Intelligence gathered by BPI and IFPI revealed that Anne Muir was a prolific user of a particular file sharing network based in the UK," said District Procurator Fiscal for Ayr, Mirian Watson. "Illegally flouting copyright laws is tantamount to theft and not only deprives legitimate companies and artists of earnings, but also undermines the music industry as a whole. We will continue to work effectively with law enforcement in this area and to apply our robust prosecution policy."

The problem for many, and is almost always the case with file-SHARING, is that it wasn't motivated by financial gain.

"It has to be stressed that this offence was not committed for any desire to make money," said her defense lawyer, Lorenzo Alonzi. "Mrs Muir was not in any way trying to distribute on a large scale, she had a very big quantity of these files because she was hoarding – a symptom of a severe obsessive personality disorder that she suffers from."

He claims she suffers from a variety of mental disorders including depression which brings on severe bouts of low self-esteem.

The UK Pirate Party has also pointed out that she was incorrectly charged with physical commercial infringment rather than with infringement to the "extant as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright." The latter is 107(2A)(B) and was added as an amendment to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act in 2003 specifically to deal with illegal file-sharing.

It reads:

(2A)A person who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public—

(b)otherwise than in the course of a business to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright,commits an offence if he knows or has reason to believe that, by doing so, he is infringing copyright in that work.

Conviction under the first article carries a punishment of a fine, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both while the a conviction under the second carries a fine, imprisonment for up to two years, or both.

This is a travesty. It clearly demonstrates that, when it comes to Internet copyright infringement, the officers of the court don't understand the law which they are attempting to apply, and are being willfully misled in an suit clearly guided and controlled by industry interests.

"This was not the only aspect of the case that was a grave cause for concern for the Pirate Party," Rob Harris, Pirate Party candidate for the West of Scotland region in 2011 Scottish elections. "The Procurator Fiscal in question, Mirian Watson, has stated that the principal evidence used in the case was gathered by the BPI and IFPI, and described Mrs Muir's alleged file-sharing activities as -tantamount to theft' — a fallacy heard far too often coming from officials who should know better."

It also questioned why she even pleaded guilty at all since no evidence gathered by the IFPI or BPI has ever stood up in court.

Laura-Anne Riach, Pirate Party candidate in the West of Scotland region, hinted that her mental illness is to blame.

"Mental illness is a vicious circle and music has been shown to have a positive effect on those struggling to cope with depression," she said. "It is disgraceful that Mrs. Muir should have been so pursued in such an aggressive and potentially damaging way, rather than given the support she needs in this difficult time."

"In any case, at a time when nationwide cuts are threatening jobs and services all over Scotland and the rest of the UK, why are we spending vast amounts of public money on these kind of suits where the alleged infringement is completely non-commercial and for personal use only?"

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