Christine McMillan, an 86 year-old grandmother, just got busted pirating Metro 2033, a post-apocalyptic first-person shooter game.  Why does this feel like 2004?

It’s been nearly twenty years since Napster first hit the scene.  And it’s taken almost that long for the music industry to recover from that hit, thanks partly to a series of high-profile, anti-piracy enforcement blunders.

Basically, the early 2000s found the music industry suing lots of people who didn’t do it.  Like a dead grandmother, who was sued by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) twelve years go for pirating MP3s.  Before her death in 2004, then 83 year-old Gertrude Walton never even owned a computer.

Yeah right: so how did she download hundreds of MP3s if she didn’t even have a computer?

The press ate it up.  The music industry looked like bullies who hated their consumers.  And everyone stuck a big middle finger in the air while piracy skyrocketed.

Indeed, lawsuits like those left a very deep scar on the music industry.  And it practically enabled an entire generation to justify piracy.  The ‘labels screw artists’ flag was already waving strong, but a consumer-hostile attack was all it took for the industry to lose 66% of its revenues over the next 10 years.

But the music industry was right.  The law said so.

The RIAA stopped suing people after eventually getting the memo.  But it looks like the gaming industry is now making the exact same mistakes.

Unsurprisingly, Christine McMillan has never even heard of ‘Metro 2033,’ the post-apocalyptic first-person shooter PC game she’s been accused of ripping off.  Back in the day, the RIAA used to respond that someone had to have stolen from that account or computer.

But here’s where this gets even more suspect: McMillan says she’s the only person that can access her computer.  And yes, 86 year olds know how to use computers now.  So unless she’s flat-out lying, someone either hacked into her computer to steal the game.  Or, more realistically, she’s been falsely accused of a crime she didn’t commit.

Here’s Christine McMillan discussing the game with Go Public.  It’s actually kind of comical.

Time to pay the piper, Christine!  Make the check payable to Canadian Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement, who sent the $5,000 bill via Christine’s ISP.  All thanks to a new procedure outlined in the Canadian Copyright Modernization Act.

But wait: are notices from Canadian Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement even binding?  Looks like we’re about to find out. “They didn’t tell me how much I owed,” McMillan said.  “They only told me that if I didn’t comply, I would be liable for a fine of up to $5,000, and I could pay immediately by entering my credit card number.”

McMillan says she’s going to ignore the bill.  Which means the entire world might find out that not only are they oftentimes incorrect, but non-binding as well.


2 Responses

  1. Versus

    Fining people for breaking the law is completely justified. The lawsuit amounts were disproportionate, and of course erroneous targeting has to be corrected. However, the idea is absolutely correct: protect intellectual property, or the concept of property becomes meaningless. Just like physical property is only meaningful if there are laws enforced to protect its rightful owners.

    • Anonymous

      Fining people who have not been convicted is not completely justified.