Digital Legal Top Stories

File-sharing grandmother gets three years probation

By | Published on Thursday 2 June 2011


The Scottish grandmother who was convicted of copyright crimes for sharing over 30,000 music files via P2P networks earlier this year has been sentenced to three year’s probation.

As previously reported, Strathclyde Police investigated Anne Muir after receiving complaints from record label trade bodies BPI and IFPI. They raided her home in Ayr in 2008 and found over 30,000 files on her hard drive, which were being made accessible to others via the DirectoConnect P2P file-sharing network. She subsequently pleaded guilty to distributing content without a licence from copyright owners “to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright”.

Whereas bootleg CD operations are frequently pursued through the criminal courts, it is much more common for non-commercial file-sharing operations – however prolific – to be sued through the civil courts. However in this case, given the level of files being made available, the record industry successfully persuaded the police to step in.

Three years probation is a significant sentence – the Pirate Party has already called it “disproportionate” – though presumably judges shied away from substantial fines or a custodial sentence, as are common in criminal prosecutions against CD bootleg operations, because of the non-commercial nature of Muir’s piracy. Her legal reps stressed in court that Muir did not specifically intend to profit, or to deny rights owners their profits, by file-sharing, rather she was suffering from depression and found her status on the file-sharing network she was part of gave her self-esteem.

Welcoming the ruling, a spokesman for the BPI told reporters yesterday: “Today the court has recognised that illegal file-sharing on a massive scale is a serious matter and has imposed a sentence aimed at preventing such behaviour in future. We would like to thank the Strathclyde police and the procurator fiscal service in Ayr for their diligent work on this investigation”.