Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SSN Theft : OK if "not knowingly"; RIAA theft: "not knowing" not valid excuse.

I began today reading the various news headlines, and I soon encountered an article in particular that made me think: YOU MUST BE JOKING!

Essentially, courts are ruling that, in some cases, STEALING SOCIAL-SECURITY NUMBERS is "OK".  What the @#??!

Here is an excerpt from the article that you may find very enlightening:

"Is using a forged Social Security Number -- but your own name -- to obtain employment or buy a car an identity theft crime? Lately, U.S. courts are saying it's not.
The most recent judicial body to take on the issue, the Colorado Supreme Court, ruled last month that a man who used his real name but someone else's Social Security number to obtain a car loan was not guilty of "criminal impersonation," overturning convictions by lower courts.
That follows a ruling last year by the U.S. Supreme Court that a Mexican man who gave a false SSN to get a job at an Illinois steel plant could not be convicted under federal identity theft laws because he did not knowingly use another person's identifying number. The ruling overturned an opinion by a federal appeals court in St. Louis -- and contradicted earlier findings by circuit courts in the Southeast, upper Midwest and the Gulf states."

So, if you are planning to steal (or, "borrow") another person's SSN#, just make sure you do not "knowingly" do it, and it is suddenly not such a bad crime; or, so says our various courts.

But, is there any consistency to what our courts are saying with regard to theft these days?
Read on, and prepare to be sick...

HYPOCRISY EXEMPLIFIED:The SSN-stealing story made me recall another story from just a day earlier about how The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the first Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) file sharing case to cross its desk: a case that tested the so-called “innocent infringer” defense to copyright infringement.

Definition Note: an "innocent infringer", with regard to Copyright law, is someone who does not know they are committing copyright infringement.

Why do I bring this up?  Well, as I see it, this RIAA case (against someone who has supposedly NOT KNOWINGLY broken the law), has an outcome that stands in stark contrast to the outcome for someone stealing (or, supposedly "not knowingly" using) another person's Social Security Number for their benefit.  And, what is the penalty in each case: steal an SSN unknowingly, avoid prosecution.... unknowingly violate laws as you download some songs from the Internet and invoke the wrath of the RIAA, and pay $750 per song as your penalty.

Am I the only one that sees the sick hypocrisy in all this?
Here is another excerpt from the article discussing the RIAA court battle I refer to:
"The case, which one [Supreme Court] justice voted to hear, leaves undisturbed a federal appeals court’s decision in February ordering a university student to pay the Recording Industry Association of America $27,750 for file-sharing 37 songs when she was a high school cheerleader.
The appeals court decision reversed a Texas federal judge who, after concluding the youngster was an innocent infringer, ordered defendant Whitney Harper to pay just $7,400, or $200 per song. That’s an amount well below the standard $750 fine required under the Copyright Act for each violation.
A Texas federal judge had granted Harper the innocent-infringer exemption to the Copyright Act’s minimum fine, because the teen claimed she did not know she was violating copyrights. She said she thought file sharing was akin to internet radio streaming.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, said she was not eligible for such a defense, even though she was between 14 and 16 years old when the infringing activity occurred on LimeWire. The reason, the appeals court concluded, is that the Copyright Act precludes such a defense if the legitimate CDs of the music in question carry copyright notices."
Wow,... what a pile of #$^*!  This RIAA case and legal conclusion is especially a pile of dung when reviewed in the context of how the "not knowing" defense has been applied to SSN-theft SUCCESSFULLY - proving that SSN numbers are less important than downloaded music, because that is what certain businesses and lobbyists have had decided for us.

I guess that all I need to do is write a copyright notice on my SSN card that states: "If someone other than I uses this SSN#, they are violating identity-theft laws and in addition they are violating my copyright and owe me $750 in addition to actually damages incurred".  The fact that they never SEE this notice (just as someone without the Music CDs in question in this RIAA case will never SEE the notice), is irrelevant: they have violated my notice, and I can collect, right? (doubtful: I have no recording industry behind me)

This makes me think: the government should re-print SSN cards now, and include a copyright notice on them, and charge everyone who steals Social Security Numbers a fine for copyright violation (as a form of revenue-raising, since they obviously will not enforce identity-theft laws).

LEGAL LESSONS LEARNEDSo, what have we learned from this? In summary, we can conclude that: it is OK for ignorance of the law to be a valid legal defense, so long as the ignorance led to a CORPORATION BENEFITING from the ignorance; whereas, if a corporation or organization representing a conglomeration of businesses or otherwise excessively wealthy people (like the RIAA does for the recording and motion-picture industry and its artists), then you can suddenly NOT plead ignorance of the law, even if you truly did not knowingly break the law.

Industries that need cheap labor [and get it by exploiting the illegal-alien labor pool] can benefit from the rulings that SSN-theft is not identity theft if done "without knowing" and for the purpose of employment or such.  The recording industry can benefit from the ruling that someone downloading copyrighted works "without knowing" is still guilty of theft because the downloader should have first read the copyright notice on the original CD or movie label (the label never in their possession) prior to downloading -- i.e., there is NEVER a case where someone can "not knowingly" violate copyright law.

Am I the only one that sees the insanity in this?