That’s a lot of gold coins

$1.5 million for pirating a single videogame?

And that was an out of court settlement. God knows what his lawyers told him he was at risk of the court ordering.

How does that in any way fit with the criminal sentencing scale? Parliament understands that a crime against a corporation is not actually more serious than a crime against a human being, right?

(Also, loved the bizarre attempt by Nintendo to use this incident to try to justify regularly releasing products here late – or never releasing them at all. Which they’ve been doing for years.)

UPDATE: Kotaku thinks there’s something fishy about the matter.


22 responses to “That’s a lot of gold coins

  1. I didn’t read anywhere that the guy made any money from his actions. Did he? Where is that 1.5 mill going to come from? Will he have a HECS debt?

  2. Maybe $1.5m is the headline figure, with a repayment schedule of $100 per year as long as he kept his mouth shut and let Nintendo intimidate the rest of us?

  3. I’ve always wondered how the fuck a normal person pays – say in this case – $1.5m? Obviously that sort of money isn’t going to be available, so what happens?

  4. He goes bankrupt.

  5. SBs right, there must have been a “perk” for settling out of court. otherwise, why do it if there’s a slim chance the case might be thrown out.

    he was always going to declare bankruptcy anyway…unless EB games pays more than award wages?

    they probably came to an arrangement where nintendo could make an “example” out of him, the papers get their story, but still spare the family more suffering.

  6. Maybe he just couldn’t pay his lawyers any more – they’d have wanted their fees upfront, for obvious reasons.

  7. Like the Jammie-Russet case, where on appeal the judge reduced the per-song amount to the minimum, and expressed regret that he couldn’t go lower: he said the original per-song cost ($80,000?) was a ridiculous amount to fine someone…

  8. Skepticus Autartikus

    Hi Jeremy, I know this is a little OT, but a nephew has expressed an interest in becoming of all things a tax barrister! Anyway, I promised him I’d try to track down some sources of what daily life might be like as a tax barrister and what his income might be. But despite my canniest attempts at google search terms, I haven’t come up with anything useful. As I know you are a barrister, cCould you suggest any appropriate sources?

  9. Have a look on the vicbar website and do a barrister search on the word “tax”.

    Depending on what stage he’s at, one of them might be willing to have a chat with him. The other possibility, rather than ringing them cold, is ringing the bar office with the query and seeing if they can put him in touch with someone.

  10. The tax bar is demanding and rewarding. Top Senior Counsel charge about $20k per day. However, it is a long way to the top. Young tax barristers would be advised to spend a few years in the tax group of a large law or accounting firm, making contact with leading tax barristers if they can.

    After passing the bar exam they must get a reading room, and read under the tutelage of an experienced barrister. They may be fed some work for a while. The most difficult thing is establishing a practice. They may be able to do some devilling – writing ghost opinions for busy barristers.

    After a year of reading the young barrister will need to find chambers, and should try to get accommodation on a floor with senior tax barristers. The time after admission is critical, and many fall by the wayside at this stage. There are a lot of expenses and often a meagre income. It may take months to get paid for your work. Barristers are also responsible for providing for their own tax, which initially is deferred until the first tax return, which may be a year or so after commencing practice. If they haven’t saved, this can be devastating.

    The key to the business (assuming good technical skills) is contacts. Gaining the confidence of those who may refer work, especially more senior barristers.
    Barristers are usually arrogant (to project an image of knowledgebility), garrulous (always looking for another brief – like used car salesmen on the make), mendacious (because they need to first convince clients they have a good case to run then, when they have the brief, to dampen expectations in case they lose), petty and grasping (initially because they are skint, later because the trappings of wealth reflect power and status) and two-faced (because they are used to arguing any and all sides of a case – they can turn on a dime).

    So, a tax barrister can earn from zero, or even a loss, to $5m pa. but very much at the lower end during the first years.

  11. Pactolus is absolutely correct — as someone with a lot of close contacts in the legal industry, anyone contemplating the bar needs to do several years making deep and serious contacts who will support a barrister’s future practice.

    But aside from that, back to the issue at hand — Jeremy, I’m kind of amazed to see you criticising this outcome as too harsh. After all, whenever a newspaper criticises a criminal sentencing outcome such as a plea bargain as too lenient, you scream blue murder. Weren’t we just supposed to stop complaining and let our betters in the courts work these things out?

  12. Criminal sentencing is a complex process that has been studied and refined over many, many years.

    In contrast, copyright is a corporate rort that’s been inflicted on us from without – the most egregious extensions by the US – and the law’s been drafted badly by parliaments for their lobbyists’ benefit. There’s very little balance, very little consideration for the other side – which is the public interest.

    Unlike in the criminal courts, “the people” do not have a representative at the bar table in most copyright cases.

    And I never argued that we should “let our betters in the courts” work these things out – I argued that in most of the criminal sentencing examples about which the Herald Sun complains, they have it right.

  13. Jeremy nails it:

    In contrast, copyright is a corporate rort that’s been inflicted on us from without – the most egregious extensions by the US – and the law’s been drafted badly by parliaments for their lobbyists’ benefit. There’s very little balance, very little consideration for the other side – which is the public interest.

    At the moment IP law does too much to enrich corporations whose main function is to exploit monopolies arising from other peoples’ creativity. They are far too influential with government. Unless people rally around this issue the shell game of avarice and corruption will continue. The rest of us will spend our days forking over ridiculous amounts of money like junkies in a drug addled haze while continuing to be forced to suck on the entertainment industry’s corporate cocaine dusted cock.

  14. Cocaine dusted?

    Ahh, SB.
    Always finding the silver lining!


  15. Skepticus Autartikus

    Thanks guys. My nephew just finished a summer clerkship with one of the big firms in their M&A department. He said no way would he want to work those hours. He says he got the impression that in Tax he would never have to pull M&A type hours, and that if he went to the Bar after 2 years in this firm, or even one of the Big 4 or ATO, he would quickly have a busy practice with varied, very interesting work, and as he put it, “earn shit load more than M&A working stiffs”.

    I’m not sure how the Tax Bar incomes compare to other corporate work, though.

  16. Your definition of the public interest sounds very much like what’s in your narrow interest: Weaker criminal penalties (great for a defence lawyer) and weaker copyright protections (great for a short-sighted gamer). But is that really in the public interest? I’d suggest that it’s better served by having people and companies who create things protected.

  17. Of course the media owners might get a clue about the drivers of their business instead of focusing on extortion.

  18. “Your definition of the public interest sounds very much like what’s in your narrow interest:”

    That’s because you like to play the man and not the ball. This isn’t about me, it’s about the issue.

    “Weaker criminal penalties (great for a defence lawyer)”

    How? People will spend more on a defence lawyer if they’re in danger of stronger punishments.

    “weaker copyright protections (great for a short-sighted gamer)”

    Any member of the public who has an interest in access to created works – including creators themselves, since most art is built on what came before – should be concerned about the balance being dragged to the corporate side.

    How is the public interest preserved by a convoluted, drawn-out copyright regime in which monopolies last long after the item in question has lost its commercial value (and it is consequently lost, because no-one can preserve it without risking a ludicrous copyright penalty). How is it in the public interest for violent crime to be punished at a lower level than anti-corporate property crime?

    The present copyright regime – with its ridiculously extensive time periods, its over-the-top criminal penalties, and its failure to in any way consider the interests of the public in being able to access works reasonably – inhibits innovation, punishes creativity, and damages our culture.

    Why, for example, should the Australian government protect a foreign corporation’s “right” to deny Australians access to content?


    1. Defendant agrees to pay Plaintiff $1.5 million;

    2. Defendant agrees to partake in media spin of deal;

    3. Defendant agrees not to disclose anything at all until 70 years after his death;

    4. Plaintiff agrees to permanent stay of enforcement;

    5. If Defendant breaches “3”, settlement amount plus interest at 10%p.a. becomes immediately due and payable.

  20. Hello! What’s this?

    Brisbane Times says

    “People who download the latest TV shows, films and games are at risk of prosecution as major distributors use new forensic technology to target individuals who illegally file-share on the internet.

    The technology claimed its first scalp last week when Queenslander James Burt, 24, was ordered by the Federal Court to pay $1.5 million in damages for copying and uploading a Nintendo game.”

    Wouldn’t that be out and out bullshit? Or, “bald-faced terminological inexactitude”?

    A “consent order” is not the same as “ordered by the Federal Court” and anyone who pretends it is is a purveyor of bald faced terminological inexactitudes. Or a bull-shit artist.

    Or possibly an unannounced shill for an industry which has little to do with art and everything to do with industry.

  21. So who is this?:

    Sabine Heindl, general manager of Music Industry Piracy Investigations.

    If that’s no fun, try “Sabiene Heindl”, and see how you go.

  22. It’s very suspicious.

    I wonder if Sarah Whyte actually spoke to Burt, and asked him the question that’s on everyone’s lips – why did you agree to pay Nintendo $1.5 million?

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