Why Is Piracy Always Fined so Much

Andy Maxwell:

This week an Irish man was handed a four-year sentence for running a pirate linking site. The Court accepted that he led no lavish lifestyle. In contrast, a man who stole almost £9m from a bank and bought homes worth £1.4m, three Bentleys, three Aston Martins, a Porsche 911 and a Rolls Royce, was also jailed. He received just 3.5 years. Fair?

According to figures provided by the prosecution, Mahoney ‘could’ have cost the movie industry £120m in lost revenue. Ultimately, however, the claims of a film industry out for blood ended up somewhat watered down.

In the cold light of day the court accepted a figure closer to £12m – quite an ‘achievement’ for a “partially blind recluse” who lived in a bedroom in his parents’ particularly modest home.

It doesn’t appear to be in question that Mahoney made £280,000 in advertising revenue from his sites and he was found in possession of £82,390 in cash when he was raided. That’s a decent amount by almost anyone’s standards and was never likely to be looked upon lightly by the court.

Finger pointing aside, Mahoney ended up with a four-year sentence. For the record, Marcou the bank defrauder received just 3.5 years.

This leaves me with two questions.

Why is it that piracy-related "crimes" (in quotations because copying something that's infinitely replicable shouldn't be a crime, but it is) always have such strong sentences and high fines? When it comes to monetary fines, there's no way to measure how much was "stolen", so they just come up with some arbitrary amount and justify it by saying they're making an example of the person. Does that happen with other types of crime?

When it comes to the sentence, I suppose it's hard to tell how reasonable it is, which is why it's nice to compare it to another infraction of a somewhat similar scale. The comparison between the amount of potential loss and the amount of actual loss in the example cases makes it look ridiculous how Mahoney was punished.

Also, Mahoney wasn't even punished for pirating any content, but for setting up a place to make it easier for others to. If one had a way to make it easier for someone to steal books from a bookstore, but didn't actually do any stealing himself, you'd think he wouldn't get such a crazy sentence. 

Something is screwy here.