Scottish Grandmother Convicted Of File-Sharing

58-year-old Anne Muir has become the first person in Scotland to be convicted of illegally sharing music

A Scottish grandmother has fallen foul of Scottish copyright laws after she was convinced of illegally sharing thousands of online songs.

58-year old Anne Muir is a nurse from Ayr in Scotland. She was found to be in possession of more 30,000 illegally downloaded music files on her computer, said to be worth a total of £54,000.

Her arrest and conviction follows an investigation by the record industry, namely the BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) and the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), who then made a formal complaint to the police.

Depressive And Obsessive

Muir’s home was raided by Strathclyde Police who seized her computer on 27 June 2008. According to the BBC, the computer was found to contain 7,493 digital music files and 24,243 karaoke files.

Muir pleaded guilty to a contravention of section 107(1)(e) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

The mother-of-three and grandmother-of-eight will be sentenced at Ayr Sheriff Court later this month.

The conviction comes despite the efforts of Muir’s defence team. Her lawyer Lorenzo Alonzi told the BBC that his client, an auxiliary nurse at Ayr hospital, had not used the network for any financial gain, but to build up her self-esteem after suffering from depression for a number of years.

“It has to be stressed that this offence was not committed for any desire to make money,” he said. “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.”

Prolific User

“She has, for many years, suffered from bouts of depression, which causes her to have extremely low self-esteem,” he added. “Learning this new technology and picking up new skills gave her self-esteem a boost.”

But it seems his argument cut little ice with the courts in Scotland.

Speaking after the case, district procurator fiscal for Ayr Mirian Watson said: “Intelligence gathered by BPI and IFPI revealed that Anne Muir was a prolific user of a particular file-sharing network based in the UK.

“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.

Unreliable Method

But the conviction has provoked a sharp retort from the Pirate Party UK, which pointed out that the data collection methods used by the record companies have repeatedly been shown to be unreliable in the USA.

“The Pirate Party UK was appalled to hear today of the conviction of 58-year-old auxiliary nurse Anne Muir in the Ayr Sheriff Court,” it said in a statement.

“As the Procurator Fiscal, her defence lawyer, and the Sheriff all should have been aware, 107(1)(e) is aimed at physical copyright infringement,” it said. “She should never have been charged under that section, let alone convicted; a different section – 107(2A)(b) – was added in 2003 specifically to deal with file-sharing and similar, online activities.”

“In addition, the Party is concerned that, by pleading guilty, Mrs. Muir has succumbed to excessive pressure brought to bear on her by the BPI and IFPI,” it added.

“The data collection methods used by these companies have been shown repeatedly to be unreliable in the USA. This case smacks of allowing the courts to be used as private company enforcers, and that fact should have been challenged by Mrs. Muir’s lawyer,” said Loz Kaye, leader of the Pirate Party. “This is yet another example of the way that less well-off people are disadvantaged in the courts by being denied access to competent legal representation.”

In England, the Digital Economy Bill designed to tackle file-sharing became law late last year.

Yesterday ACS:Law, the law firm that had been tracking Internet users in the UK and sending suspected illegal-file shares letters, was hit with a £1,000 fine by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for its lax security that permitted a damaging data breach.