File-sharing Scottish woman given probation sentence


1 June 2011

by Stephen Gregory

A Scottish grandmother has been sentenced to three years’ probation after pleading guilty to illegally distributing music over the internet.

Anne Muir, a 58 year old grandmother from Ayr, admitted unlawfully disseminating £54,000 worth of music files across the World Wide Web by making them available for download via a peer-to-peer file sharing program. She becomes the first person in Scotland to be convicted of downloading music illegally. She was convicted at Ayr Sheriff Court, according to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

After a complaint was lodged by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the International Federation for the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the files were found in a raid on Muir’s home in 2008 in which her computer equipment was seized. The investigating officers located 7,493 digital music files and 24,243 karaoke files.

Muir pleaded guilty to a charge of distributing articles which could reasonably have been believed to be copyrighted, without possession of a licence enabling her to do so. This amounts to a violation of the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1998.

Defence lawyer Lorenzo Alonzi argued that his client’s actions were not driven by desire for financial gain but merely to lift her self-esteem. An auxiliary nurse at Ayr hospital, Muir claims to have suffered from depression for a number of years.

"She has expressed genuine remorse for this and is severely embarrassed about it," he added.

A BPI spokesman said: "Today the court has recognised that illegal filesharing 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."

However, Loz Kaye, the leader of the UK Pirate Party, said he was "hugely dismayed" by Muir's "disproportionate sentence". He added: "The evidence should have been properly tested in court. It seems now there is a pattern of rights holders targeting vulnerable people to score quick wins for publicity."

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