From the Barstool of the Publisher – April, 2006

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Two file sharers were indicted this month and face up to 11 years in prison for allegedly sharing tracks from Ryan Adam’s 2005 Jacksonville City Nights prior to the official release of the album.

If the two kids, Jared Chase Bowser, 21, of Jacksonville, Fla., and Robert Thomas, 24, of Milwaukee, Wisc., are sentenced to that long of a term, it will be the one of the worst atrocities in the courts since the justice system started imposing mandatory minimums in drug sentences.

Let’s get this straight: The Marquee does not promote, condone, or support illegal file sharing in ANY situation, and this situation is unique in that the files shared were from pre-released copies, a move which the parent label Universal Music said “damages our artist and our marketing plans for the album.”

I agree with them, but 11 years?

I whole-heartedly support Universal and Adams in wanting some compensation, but if these kids go to jail for 11 years, and neither the label nor Adams request a lower sentence, it’ll be a sad day in music.

Bowser and Thomas were wrong — flat-out, but it would be nice if those going after file sharers and copyright infringements were seeking punishments that fit the crime.

I contend that if the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney’s office in Nashville, who handed down the indictments, could figure out that Bowser and Thomas were the ones who posted the tracks on the internet, then they probably have the smarts to figure out what it financially cost Universal and Adams.

They did not take Adams’ life, nor did they ruin his career, and Jacksonville City Nights went on to be an impressively selling album and was critically well received. Universal, who released the album under their division Lost Highway Records, may have likely lost some money, but it didn’t bankrupt them.

I support a crackdown on file sharing, but not with ludicrous sentences meant to act as a scare tactic by the industry to discourage others. Make the punishment fit the crime. If these two boys go to jail until they are 32 and 35 years old, they will spend more time behind bars than those who have murdered people — and that is truly a crime.

They were fans — hard core enough to get their hands on a pre-release copy — who screwed up, and screwed up bad, but should they really have their lives ruined for such a stupid mistake?

I think not.

We’ll see you at the shows.

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